One of the heroes of the dramatic draw in the first Test against Pakistan, Australian batsman Usman Khawaja’s likely absence in the final innings of the second match will be felt. The left-handed opening batsman has, according a report in Cricinfo, gone for scans on a twisted left knee which happened during a fielding drill before play started on the third day. The Australian batting, already a depleted unit due to the absence of stalwarts such as Steve Smith and David Warner, can ill-afford losing Khawaja for an extended period at this point in time. Worryingly though, Khawaja wrenched his left knee, the same joint that had required reconstructive surgery after he tore an anterior cruciate ligament in 2014.
Bowler Peter Siddle said that many in the team were unaware of such an incident till they saw that he did not join them for the beginning of the day’s play. “Nah we didn’t see it, some of the guys might’ve but I didn’t, he hasn’t really said too much,” Siddle said. “Disappointing for him but he’s getting a scan later tonight and they’ll send it to the people who need to have a look at it in the next day or so and we’ll find out more. At this stage that’s all we know. Just fingers crossed for him, hopefully it comes back positive for him and he can get back out there.
“It was just something in warm-up, we were throwing the ball. So that’s about all I know, I don’t know what specifically happened, but something so small it’s kept him out. So disappointing for him but fingers crossed he gets some good news tonight. Initially [he was] very flat, as anyone would know, knowing that he can’t get out there with the boys and help out.
“But I think throughout the day he was up and about, moving around, helping us when we came in and trying to help us in the rooms. He’s a positive guy, so fingers crossed for him and we get some good news tonight or tomorrow. Tonight once he’s got the scan and we know more that’ll determine from the doctor’s point of view what he can and can’t do. That’s the big thing at the end of the day and just looking after his welfare. We’ll see how that comes up tomorrow and we’ll go from there.”
At this point, Australian cricket needs a Khawaja to hold their batting together, and that was further seconded by the collapse after his early dismissal in the first innings in Abu Dhabi. Australia were bowled out for a paltry 145, giving Pakistan the upper hand in the game at a very early stage.
The visiting Aussies now have a mountain to climb with Khawaja injured as they need 538 to win and have close to 200 overs to bat if they want to save the game. After Mitchell Starc’s hamstring problem, this is their second injury concern in the match. Siddle will be called in as cover for Starc for the T20s.
While the Australians have dug deep and managed to bring out the best in them in adverse conditions, coach Justin Langer spoke about how the temperatures had taken a big toll on his players.
“I said to Travis Head actually when he missed out on the T20 side,” Langer said. “At the end of this second Test you’ll be coming and giving me a hug.
”And Finchy said it to me today as well because Test cricket is so tiring. Physically and mentally, it’s so draining. But that’s all part of the back-to-back Test matches, especially with our young guys. We were going to have to recharge the batteries as well as we can and then have another crack at it. They’re all important Test matches.”
Australian cricket will wait with baited breath about the news on Khawaja, but till then it is upto the likes of Shaun Marsh and the rest will be expected to carry the team as batsmen.
First Published: October 19, 2018, 12:36 AM IST