Australia’s Test hero Usman Khawaja said young opener Matt Renshaw can change gears and abandon his steadfast batting technique when required after guiding the team to an overdue victory over South Africa.
The English-born debutant, one of five changes in the Australian team, finished unbeaten on 34 from 137 balls as they ended a run of five Test defeats with a seven-wicket victory in the pink-ball Test in Adelaide on Sunday.
Despite displaying a resilience and determination previously missing from Australia’s batsmen in the lost South Africa series, the 20-year-old received some sarcastic cheers from the crowd over his snail paced scoring, including a stretch of 32 deliveries without a run.
Renshaw’s dour style was also in evidence during the first evening of the day-night Test when he survived 12 overs against a strong South African bowling attack with a new pink ball — key at a time when it was sorely needed by his transitional side.
But Khawaja, who was man of the match for his near-eight hour first innings 145 spanning three days, says there is more to Renshaw’s game than just rock-solid defence. “He’s got a really good temperament, a really good head on him. What you saw during this Test match was one bit of Matt Renshaw’s game,” Khawaja told reporters after Sunday’s win.
“He’s got a very good temperament, a good defence, he plays the ball well and plays it late.
“Hopefully, you’ll also be able to see the other part of him. I’ve seen him take down some attacks, I’ve seen him come against a few spinners and heave them for some big sixes and change gears.
“He’s a 20-year-old playing Test cricket. He’s doing great for a 20-year-old, he’d be doing great for a 25-year-old.”
Renshaw said he was conscious while edging Australia towards victory of feeling some agitation from the crowd, as fans grew impatient with the team’s meandering pursuit of the 127-run winning target.
“I was just trying to have fun but once the crowd got going that was the hard part. I had to just keep myself grounded and not do something stupid,” Renshaw said. “It’s pretty hard when the crowd gets up and adrenalin gets up. You want to play the big shot but you don’t want to get out.”
While Renshaw was ultra-cautious, his skipper Steve Smith was out caught behind for 40 five balls before the winning run was scored by Peter Handscomb, another Test newcomer. Renshaw, with scores of 10 and 34 not out, is expected to keep his spot for the first Test against Pakistan in Brisbane next month, although the seasoned Shaun Marsh, who can bat anywhere, is close to a return from a finger injury.