Usman Khawaja has declared himself fit for the first Ashes Test on Thursday.
Usman Khawaja has declared himself fit for the first Ashes Test on Thursday.

Uzzie fitness boost puts squeeze on batting options

Australia's Ashes attention has turned to who opens, and who bats at number six, after Usman Khawaja declared himself ready for the first Test.

Khawaja hasn't played since Australia's final group game at the World Cup after suffering a hamstring injury on July 6.

He didn't bat in the intra-squad match at Southampton, the only red-ball warm-up for Australia's World Cup players, but had a long centre-wicket hitout when it concluded.

 

Usman Khawaja has declared himself all but ready to play in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston.
Usman Khawaja has declared himself all but ready to play in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston.

 

The 31-year-old, who was the leading one-day run scorer in the world in 2019 before his injury, said he needed only to tick one final fitness box to get the all clear to play at Edgbaston on Thursday.

Stream over 50 sports live & anytime on your TV or favourite device with KAYO SPORTS. The biggest Aussie sports and the best from overseas. Just $25/month. No lock-in contract. Get your 14 day free trial >

"I'm just about running at full speed now, I did a session yesterday that was just about at full speed, so not too far off," he said in Birmingham on Sunday.

"Tomorrow (Monday in England) will probably be the last big one I do, probably the last level of running that I have to do. The highest level. If I do that then I think I'll be available for selection.

 

 

"I think it's going really well at the moment."

Khawaja said he had actually missed very little batting practice since he hurt himself, so didn't feel his preparation had been hampered.

"A hamstring doesn't really stop you from batting, it stops you from sprinting. So it's only sprinting stuff that has really stopped me," he said.

"Everything else, I haven't really actually changed too much. I've been hitting a lot of balls, so that point of view hasn't been that different."

 

Khawaja has been working hard to prove his fitness to Australia’s medical staff.
Khawaja has been working hard to prove his fitness to Australia’s medical staff.

 

While Khawaja is ready to take up his position at number three, and both David Warner and Steve Smith back in their customary roles in the top four, the rest of the batting order remains unclear.

Travis Head will likely bat at number five, but both Matthew Wade and Marnus Labuschagne are in the running to come in at number six.

Most expect Marcus Harris, as the incumbent Test opener, should get the first chance to partner Warner. But Cameron Bancroft has impressed everyone in the team since he rejoined the group and the option of a right and left-hand combination could yet sway selectors.

Selection chairman Trevor Hohns had flagged the potential for one of Bancroft or Harris to bat at three if Khawaja wasn't fit, but they could now be fighting for the one spot.

It's understood Hohns and Justin Langer are keen on confirming the team sooner rather than later, after several players were left on edge last week before the naming of the squad.

Rain could also hamper training, with showers expected every day before the Test, and most days during it.