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Australia batsman Usman Khawaja could find himself opening against South Africa’s formidable pace attack in the first Test in Perth on November 3, just months after being dropped during a poor tour of Sri Lanka.
Khawaja has played most of his cricket at number three for Australia but could end up at the top of the order for the Test at the WACA after Shaun Marsh suffered a hamstring strain.
“I think you can look at him (Khawaja) as a one, two or three,” Australia coach Darren Lehmann told reporters in Sydney on Wednesday. “It depends on the make-up of the side.
“At the end of the day the captain will decide where the batting order lies and we’ll just give him the side we think is the best prepared and the best team to win that particular game.”
At three, Khawaja enjoyed a prolific home summer against New Zealand and West Indies, smashing a century in three Tests and adding a fourth ton on tour in New Zealand in February.
The stylish left-hander’s form deserted him on the flat wickets in Sri Lanka, however, where he managed only 55 runs from four innings before being omitted for the third Test in Colombo in August.
Khawaja will hope for a good knock captaining Queensland in the final of a local one-day tournament on Sunday, having had little time out in the middle recently.
He scored an unbeaten 82 in a one-dayer against Ireland in South Africa but was unused in the ODI series against the hosts, who swept an under-strength Australia 5-0.
“I felt like I was seeing the ball well all throughout South Africa and still feel like I’m seeing the ball well,” he said.
“Even in Sri Lanka where I didn’t score a lot of runs, I didn’t feel horrible.”
He will have only a day’s break before leading Queensland in the domestic Sheffield Shield, the only chance to get reacquainted with the longer format before the Perth Test.
Khawaja questioned the scheduling of the South Africa one-day tour right before the Australian domestic summer, which will see a number of Test players scramble to compete in four different tournaments in just over three weeks.
“I found it really bizarre that we played that one-day series before a big Test series,” he said.
“That’s how international cricket is going these days. There is no break.”