The Punch @ the SCG, Day 1 Khawaja looks the goods
In any sport, some people look the part from their very first minute at the top level.
Michael Clarke was one such case himself when he made his debut way back in 2004, and this day was supposed to be all about his coming of age. The Pup, at last, was Top Dog.
But even before Clarke departed with just four runs to his name, it became clear that this grey, slow, rain-interrupted first day of a dead rubber would be remembered for the emergence of Usman Khawaja.
Plenty is going to be written about the 24 year old Islamabad-born New South Welshman in coming days, months and years.
As Australia’s first Muslim cricketer, the leftie will inspire countless kids, and do much to transform the global image of the Australian cricket team as a white-only zone.
After all, England’s (non-practising) Muslim skipper Nasser Hussain made his Test debut some 21 years ago now, and the Poms have had countless players of west Indian heritage down the years.
But for now, let’s focus on Khawaja’s batting rather than his contribution to the cultural mix of Australian cricket.
Dismissed for 37, he hardly tore up the record books. But there are good 37s and bad 37s. And this was a good one.
In a summer where our batsmen have habitually been caught behind after playing too hard at the ball, Khawaja showed softer hands than “Madge” from the old Palmolive ads.
In a failed series where Australia’s batsmen have often dug in to no avail (see Clarke’s 4 from 21 balls), he attacked early, hitting a four and a two from his first two balls. That pull shot off his second ball was great stuff.
But above all, Khawaja just looked calm, assured and technically proficient. Like the steak lunch in the media centre, he was a rock hard presence.
When he was finally dismissed, it was to his first real loose shot of the day, a pre-meditated sweep off Graeme Swann. He’ll be kicking himself, not just for the rush of blood, but because the rain came down moments later.
He could’ve been there tomorrow. At least he’ll be there next year, and the one after that. This much was as clear as the skies weren’t after today’s effort.
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