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Khawaja closes in on Test recall, answers Chappelli with gutsy knock

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Queensland captain Usman Khawaja has emphatically rebutted Ian Chappell’s claim that he only performs against mediocre bowling by closing in on a Test recall with a fighting innings.

A day after laughing off Chappell’s comments, Khawaja stood tall to make a masterful 70 on Day 1 of a Sheffield Shield clash with Western Australia at the Gabba despite carnage unfolding around him.

The Bulls were rolled for just 129 on a green-top pitch with Khawaja the only specialist batter to reach double figures. Tail-enders Gurinder Sandhu (13) and Mark Steketee (10) provided limited support.

Khawaja, 34, was the last man dismissed having lasted 138 balls against a potent bowling attack featuring Jhye Richardson, Joel Paris, Test all-rounder Cameron Green, Cameron Gannon and Lance Morris, who snared top figures of 4/21.

Chappell recently told Wide World of Sports that Khawaja was “a good player against mediocre bowling, but against good bowling I don’t think there’s much future there” – prompting the left-hander to quip that Ian was “not even the best player in his family”.

“If I’m going to take advice, I might take it from his younger brother, who I get along with very well too. GC (Greg Chappell) is a legend,” Khawaja said.

Even before his latest performance, many pundits and fans were calling for Khawaja’s reinstatement in the Australian side for the upcoming Ashes summer.

The elegant stroke-maker scored 174 in a Shield match against South Australia last month and backed that up with 119 in the following four-day clash with Tasmania.

After playing the most recent of his 44 Tests against England in 2019, Khawaja is seemingly in the box seat to partner veteran David Warner atop the order for the opening Ashes match in Brisbane on December 8.

With Will Pucovski recovering from his latest concussion, it appears a race in two between Khawaja and Victorian Marcus Harris to claim the vacant opening spot.

But speaking on Tuesday, Khawaja said he’d be happy to bat anywhere in Australia’s line-up.

“I’ve been batting four for Queensland for the last two years so for me, if there’s a spot at five, it’s as likely as opening the batting, (and) it probably makes more sense in some respects,” Khawaja told reporters, per cricket.com.au.

“I talked to selectors a while ago, as long I’m in the top-six, I feel like I’m a top-six bat, I feel like I can bat anywhere.

“There’s a lot of good players out there too, I’m not a lock by any stretch of the imagination, there’s still another two games left.”

Meanwhile, Western Australia’s Shaun Marsh recorded a titbit of history.

Having batted alongside Zimbabwe international Murray Goodwin on his first-class debut some 20 years ago, Marsh’s journey came full circle when he partnered Goodwin’s debutant son, Jayden.

Unfortunately, there was no first-innings fairytale for either of them. Goodwin was out for 10, caught behind off Sandhu, while Marsh – now aged 38 – retired hurt on six due to a calf injury.

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