Pakistan-born Australian batter Usman Khawaja has been recalled to the Test side in place of Travis Head for the fourth Ashes game scheduled to begin at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) on January 5.
Khawaja is the only change announced by Australian Test skipper Pat Cummins after Head — the hero of the first Test win at The Gabba — tested COVID-19 positive after the conclusion of the Boxing Day Test. Australia have taken an unassailable 3-0 lead against England in the series to retain the Ashes.
Pace bower, Scott Boland, who snared six wickets in the second innings of the Boxing Day Test to help the home team win by an innings and 14 runs on his debut, has earned a second match, with Josh Hazlewood and Jhye Richardson sidelined.
Pacer Hazlewood’s side strain will see him miss a third Test, with Richardson still recovering from a foot problem. Spinner Mitchell Swepson, who had been touted as a potential replacement for a pacer, has been overlooked.
Khawaja last featured in international cricket more than two years ago, as a member of both the 2019 Cricket World Cup squad in England, and the Ashes side that retained the urn on tour in the same year. Set to bat at No.5, Khawaja comes in for Head who tested positive on the morning of New Year’s eve.
Boland stunned the cricketing world on Test debut at his home in MCG, taking 6/7 in just four overs to seal series victory. Boland claimed ‘Player of the Match’ honours as the icing on the cake of his dream first outing.
Captain Cummins said that Hazlewood and Richardson, who played ahead of Boland in the second Test at Adelaide, were given the chance to prove their fitness, as Australia look to claim maximum World Test Championship points.
“We gave Josh every chance we could, just felt like he couldn’t bowl at full tilt yesterday (Monday). We’re still hoping he’ll be right for Hobart (fifth Test).
“It’s no secret that if Joshy Hazlewood was available then he was going to play. He’s been just a brilliant bowler for us for a long period of time,” Cummins was quoted as saying by icc-cricket.com.
Despite the absence of the pair, Cummins is confident Boland can continue to deliver with the ball. “You need that disciplined stump-to-stump bowler and that’s what Scotty brings to the table,” Cummins said. “It’s a real luxury for us to have someone like Scotty … we feel really well placed at the moment with so many options. He’s bowling as well as he ever has, it’s great that he can keep going from last week.”
Rain is forecast for the majority of the Test match at the SCG.