Australia's Usman Khawaja looks beyond stop-gap Sydney role

Veteran batsman replaces Travis Head for fourth Ashes Test in Sydney

While Usman Khawaja is ready to fill in for Travis Head in the fourth Ashes Test against England, the veteran Australia batsman hopes his would not be a stop-gap role this year.

Head will miss the Sydney contest, which begins on Wednesday, after testing positive for Covid-19, and Khawaja is set to play his first Test in more than two years.

Cricket Australia confirmed all squad members and support staff returned negative Covid-19 results from Friday's testing.

Khawaja is aware that Head, whose match-winning 152 in the Brisbane opener set the tone for Australia's unassailable 3-0 lead in the series, is likely to reclaim the spot in the final Test in Hobart but believes he can still contribute to Australia.

"It's one of those things where even if I do play, it'll only be for one game," Khawaja told the Cricket Australia (CA) website.

"I understand that situation ... hopefully I can go out there and score a hundred and do well for the team in the absence of 'Heady'."

"Even if that doesn't happen, there's a lot of cricket still to come up," he added.

Australia will tour Pakistan in March-April and Khawaja hopes to be part of the squad.

"I'll potentially have one game for Australia here, but even if that doesn't happen, I know there's still ... a lot of cricket on the subcontinent which I feel I'm very suited too."

"I'm just putting my head down, making sure I'm working really hard and doing the best I can for Australia whenever I get the opportunity."

Should he get that in Sydney, the Queensland captain is confident of making the most of it despite sitting out the first three matches of the series.

"It's always nicer when you're coming off games. I haven't played for probably a month now, but it shouldn't take too long.

"If I play and get out there, bat for half an hour and get into it, I should find that sync again."

Khawaja turned 35 last month and said he felt fit enough to carry on.

"I still feel quite young in my head. As long as that's there, I still have the fire spark and as long as the body's holding up ... I'll keep playing the game."

Meanwhile, England assistant coach Graham Thorpe says the tourists' young batters have been given a "wake-up call" by Australia in the Ashes series and must use it to kick-start their careers.

Thorpe will take charge of England during the fourth Test in Sydney while head coach Chris Silverwood isolates in Melbourne after a family member tested positive for Covid-19.

England find themselves down 3-0 in the five-match series, with none of their batters scoring a century amid struggles against Australia's superb pace attack.

But Thorpe, who scored more than 6,000 runs in 100 Tests for England, said that the players had started working on solutions to their problems.

"With some players it's a wake-up call and could actually kick-start their careers because they've started training in a very different way. They don't waste time fluffing, hitting half-volleys," Thorpe told British media.

"They've come up against some very good bowling attacks, who have been able to have a little watch of them and see where some of their Achilles' heels are, and they're having to face that reality."

Thorpe said batters had to adapt to the demands of Test cricket, which he described as "10 times harder" than the domestic game.

"County cricket is what it is, you've got to lift players out of there, then educate them in international cricket. When I look at the batting in general, I try to teach the basics of the game," Thorpe added.

"We're trying to still educate some of the younger guys into... the rhythm of test batting, playing situations in the game, doing it for long periods. Some of them haven't been able to do it yet. Some people's journeys are in different places."

Updated: January 1st 2022, 10:04 AM