Usman Khawaja‘s ability with the bat has never been in doubt, but there have been question-marks over his fielding during the course of his five years in international cricket. So it was again during Australia’s loss to West Indies on Monday in St Kitts, where he top scored with 98 but then spilled two early chances in the field to give reprieves to both of the West Indies openers.
In the second over of the chase, Khawaja was at mid-on where he dropped a gettable chance from Andre Fletcher, and in the eighth over Khawaja was at long-on when he missed a sitter to reprieve Johnson Charles. Australia will need far sharper performances in the field when they take on West Indies and South Africa in Barbados in the push for a place in the tri-series final.
“I don’t think we fielded particularly well and obviously I put my hand up in that department,” Khawaja said. “Sometimes you just have horrendous games and you just can’t do anything about it, the ball follows you around.
“Obviously it’s a big part of cricket. A big part of what we do well. If we’re fielding well, we usually win games so it’s quite important. I’m not the first person to drop a catch. It happens. You try and move on as quickly as possible.”
Australia’s first training session at Kensington Oval in Barbados focused solely on fielding, with no bowling or batting, as stand-in coach Justin Langer sought to turn around their sloppy work. The Australians take on South Afric on Sunday and West Indies on Tuesday, and the series has already shown the evenness of the three sides, with each team having won two and lost two.
Australia are without opener David Warner, who broke his finger earlier in the series, which has allowed Khawaja to move up the order to open the batting alongside Aaron Finch. Khawaja looked comfortable in the role on Monday and although he missed out on a maiden ODI century, he is now averaging 46.66 in the format this year.
“When I was younger I was always pigeonholed as a four-day player. It frustrated me a lot,” Khawaja said. “Even when I performed back in first grade cricket at the time when I was really young, I still wouldn’t get a chance at New South Wales.
“I finally got a chance – I put some numbers on the board and I did well and we won a few games. Australia just had a set one-day team and no matter how many runs I scored in the Matador Cup, it was too hard to crack it.”
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