Sunday 17 December 2017

Cricket: Aussies call on rookie Khawaja as cover for injured Clarke

Stephen Brenkley

Australia were forced to summon an emergency batsman to their squad last night.

The uncapped Usman Khawaja flew to Brisbane from his home in Sydney as cover for the team's vice-captain Michael Clarke. Whether Clarke -- who has an Ashes batting average of 55 -- plays must be doubtful, but it was indicative of a disturbed squad.

Clarke suffered his back injury last week and has been struggling since. Khawaja, who is claimed to be the most exciting batsman in Australia -- but made 13 and 0 for Australia 'A' against England last week -- was originally overlooked in favour of veteran Mike Hussey.

Clarke thinks he will be fit to play, but the summons of Khawaja suggested that there was not unanimous agreement on the subject.

The important last-minute ceremonial trappings of the series were, meanwhile, perfectly executed. As visitors to Australia quickly discover, the place is regulated to within an inch of its life. The country is a poster boy for controlled activity, from smoking within 10 metres of restaurants to not walking across roads should a bicycle be approaching.

While it has yet to be officially enshrined on the statute books, another of the country's hard and fast rules was rigidly enforced yesterday. In the nick of time, Australia's premier fast bowler said he had a plan to knock the England captain's block off in the Ashes series. When doesn't he?

Mitchell Johnson, the former world cricketer of the year who rather mucked up his last Ashes series in England, put it like this: "England have been doing well for the past 18 months. They really look up to their captain, Andrew Strauss, and that is someone we need to target as their captain.

"If we can get him to crumble, then their players start thinking negatively and so that is someone we will definitely be going after.

"If verbals work, it's something we will keep discussing," Johnson added. "I am sure Ricky (Ponting) will probably want us to as well, try to get into his mind a bit. They have got a few players in their side that love a bit of chat." (© Independent News Service)

Irish Independent

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