Usman Khawaja may miss out on a ticket for the plane to England. Picture: Getty Images
Usman Khawaja may miss out on a ticket for the plane to England. Picture: Getty Images

Australia on top but questions remain ahead of Ashes

AUSTRALIA'S Joe Burns and Travis Head have finally ended a century-less summer with an incredible partnership on day one of the inaugural Manuka Oval Test.

Coming to the crease at 3-28, the pair piled on 308 runs as the Sri Lankans watched their promising start whittle away as the day waned.

Head broke through for his maiden Test century before he departed for 161.

Opener Burns ended the day on 172 not out.

Australia entered the day with absolute confidence they could snap the century drought that had plagued the side throughout the summer.

Not since Usman Khawaja's fighting century in the UAE series against Pakistan had an Aussie batsman hit triple figures.

While Burns and Head were able to break through, Australia were in trouble early with Marcus Harris, Khawaja and Marnus Labuschagne all missing out.

The most egregious wicket was that of Khawaja, with cricket legends suggesting it could be enough to see him miss the plane to the Ashes.

The Queenslander lasted just three balls before wafting at a drive, edging to second slip.

The wicket had Fox Cricket commentators Kerry O'Keeffe and Michael Vaughan saying Khawaja couldn't  bat at first drop for Australia.

The 32-year-old left-hander was expected to stand up and dominate for Australia as one of the older statesmen in the side in the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner.

But this summer, Khawaja has made just 209 runs in nine innings at 23.22 this summer

"Usman Khawaja's feet, they froze," O'Keeffe said. "You can't at No.3 have frozen feet to the swinging ball. The bat was a long way from the body as a result.

"So Australia's (number) one, two and three are not locked in concrete going forward.

"Can Usman bat at No.3 with that technique? On current from, no."

Former England captain Vaughan called Khawaja's technique this summer a "worry".

"His feet are locked in concrete, they're not moving. That to me is a worry for a No.3 because all summer he's just not looked like Usman Khawaja," Vaughan said.

"I've seen him over the years and he's a really good player, he can play a really nice innings.

"In Brisbane he had a technical error and mental flaw trying to play too square with a horizontal bat. Then you see him here (in Canberra). There's no base to be playing that shot, it's just a flick of the wrists with his head leaning to the off side.

"Something's not right with Usman Khawaja, only he can answer that."

O'Keeffe said later in commentary that Khawaja could learn more from other sportspeople who had been outside looking in.

"Nick Foles, the Philadelphia Eagles quarterback, last year at the post-game said you've got to embrace failure as a sportsman, and I get the sense Usman Khawaja isn't embracing his run of outs," O'Keeffe said.

"Whereas Marnus Labuschagne, we saw him darting around like a mosquito happy, he's moved on from his failure today. I think it's a big plus in a sportsman's development being that transparent."

Ouch. Usman Khamaja desperately needs some runs. Picture: Getty Images
Ouch. Usman Khamaja desperately needs some runs. Picture: Getty Images

Shane Warne wrote a column for the Herald Sun before the first day in Canberra suggesting Khawaja should be on the chopping block after his dire form throughout the summer.

"I would have dropped Usman Khawaja, because he needs a kick up the backside," Warne wrote.

"Khawaja had one really good innings in Perth (72 off 213) where he fought, but he's giving up his wicket too easily and his performances have been very ordinary.

"He will probably play at Edgbaston, but he's not a lock. He most likely plays, unless Pucovski got a chance and made a big score. Pucovski should have got that chance."

Before the first day's play, former opener Simon Katich also weighed in on SEN, saying Khawaja should score runs in Canberra.

"It's probably been the matter with which he's been batting that's been the most concerning thing," he said.

"Hopefully this wicket here will help him get a bit of confidence back in his footwork, because there won't be the same sort of bounce in this wicket.

"I'd love to see him get more on the front foot here and drive with a bit more authority."

Fans roasted Khawaja for his failure on social media.

UNLIKELY DEBUTANT'S EARLY JOY

UNCAPPED fast bowler Chamika Karunaratne wasn't in Sri Lanka's squad for their tour of Australia on Monday.

By Friday, he was on Canberra's Manuka Oval claiming a wicket in his first over as his country's 148th Test player.

After being hit to the fence by Marnus Labuschagne off his first ball in Test cricket, Karunaratne dismissed the Australian No.4 three balls later.

It was a dramatic turn of events for the 22-year-old Sri Lankan, who has played 29 first-class matches for an average of 34.16.

Sri Lanka's unlikely debutant Chamika Karunaratne.
Sri Lanka's unlikely debutant Chamika Karunaratne.

Karunaratne arrived in Australia on Wednesday as replacement for the injured Lahiru Kumara.

Along with fellow quick Dushmantha Chameera, Kumara flew home following the innings and 40-run loss in Brisbane.

Inexperienced pair Kasun Rajitha and Vishwa Fernando, who have five Tests between them, were always likely to come into the side.

The only bowler assured of his place was Suranga Lakmal, who was on fire at the Gabba after claiming a five-wicket haul.

But to top off an already horrendous run on tour, which also saw key batsman Angelo Mathews and fast bowler Nuwan Pradeepgo home with hamstring injuries, Lakmal suffered a setback.

An issue with Lakmal's back forced him out of the second Test and presented an unlikely opportunity to Karunaratne.

- with AAP

News Corp Australia


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