Khawaja firms for Boxing Day test against West Indies

  • Cricket
  • Saturday, 19 Dec 2015

Australia's Usman Khawaja celebrates after reaching his century during the first day of the second cricket test match against New Zealand at the WACA ground in Perth, Western Australia, November 13, 2015. REUTERS/David Gray

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Usman Khawaja's bid to reclaim his spot in Australia's top order for the Boxing Day test against West Indies is back on track after the batsman was passed fit to play in the domestic Twenty20 competition.

Khawaja missed the West Indies series-opener in Hobart and the third and final test against New Zealand in Adelaide last month after suffering a hamstring injury against the Black Caps in Perth.

The left-hander was rested for Sydney Thunder's 'Big Bash' opener on Thursday but passed a fitness test the following day and will pad up for the side at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday.

If he emerges from that unscathed, Khawaja is expected to be picked for the second test against West Indies in Melbourne, leaving selectors with a tough call to drop either opener Joe Burns or batsman Shaun Marsh.

"If there's one thing that gets real sore after a T20 game, it's my hamstring," Khawaja, who turned 29 on Friday, told reporters on Saturday.

"It's going to be a test and I'm not going to go out there and nurse it in any way because I want to test it. I don't want to go into the Boxing Day test match not having that confidence.

"I want to go out pretty hard."

Khawaja scored back-to-back centuries in the first two tests of Australia's 2-0 series win over New Zealand, a brilliant return after two years in the international wilderness.

However, his replacement Marsh has also performed well and smashed 182 in Hobart in a record-setting partnership with Adam Voges that set up a dominant win and a 1-0 lead in the three-test series against West Indies.

Burns starred in the series-opener against New Zealand in Brisbane, scoring 71 and 129, but has had a modest output in the three tests since.

"Whoever they leave out, they're going to be hard done by," former captain Michael Clarke told local media.

"Joe Burns got a beautiful hundred in the first test and I think his contribution with (opener) David Warner has been really important.

"Shaun Marsh grabbed his opportunity with both hands.

"Whoever they go with will perform. Whoever they leave out will go back to state cricket and continue to make runs and wait for another opportunity."

(Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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