Stars flounder in battle for fifth Ashes spot
Neither Usman Khawaja or Travis Head made a serious claim to take the fifth spot in the Ashes line-up as both failed to fire in the Sheffield Shield.
Travis Head was unable to take advantage of a major capitulation from Usman Khawaja as both men failed to stake their claim for the fifth spot in Australia’s Ashes line-up.
Khawaja made his way to the middle after opener Bryce Street fell for 87 from 226 after he was caught behind by Alex Carey off a Liam Scott out-swinger, but the 34-year-old barely lasted after more rain delays forced an early lunch to be taken.
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He was sent packing for a measly four runs after he was caught behind from a Daniel Worrall delivery, gifting Head the perfect oportunity to prove he belongs in Australia’s batting order.
However, the South Australian missed a golden chance to stamp his credentials as a flicked shot off the pads was smacked down the throat of Matt Renshaw to send Head on his way for just eight runs.
Both men were named in Justin Langer’s 15-man squad for the series against England, with George Bailey noting they will be competing for the number five spot.
Bailey, the chief selector, confirmed one of the two had their nose in front in terms of who will make the final XI but he refused to disclose which man that could have been.
As South Australia got their chance with the bat to get in front of Queensland’s total of 299, the Bulls had Test star Marnus Labuschagne to thank for gifting them a solid start.
Labuschagne scored his second Sheffield Shield century of the season, bouncing back after he went out for a duck and 36 runs in Queensland’s previous match against Western Australia.
It was also his best score in his previous four innnings across the Marsh Cup and the Shield, having failed to crack the forty-run barrier.
Labuschagne was sporting extra protection to his body due to opening-day perils when he was subjected to a barrage of tricky delivers that found a damp spot on the wicket.
Unfortunately for the 27-year-old, he was bowled by Head for 110 as Queensland sat at 6-259.
It didn’t get much better for the Bulls, as the wickets of James Bazley and Jack Wildermuth fell for nothing to leave the visitors on the same score and with two wickets to spare.
A brief partnership between star bowler Mark Steketee and Matt Kuhnemann gifted Queensland 30 more runs before the former was caught behind from Nathan McAndrew to leave South Australia chasing 300 to take the lead.
The home side barely made a dent into the run chase as they finished day two 8-93.
Opener Jake Weatherald was the only South Australian who looked to have any fight in him but was caught on 33 as Jason Gillespie’s side fizzled.
Head’s exit was promptly followed by Alex Carey, although the pair’s time at the crease ended in controversial fashion as Bulls bowler Matt Kuhnemann appeared to have his back foot on the white line, meaning they should be declared as no balls since no part of the foot can make contact with the return crease.
Kuhnemann continued to be a thorn in the South Australian side, snaring the wickets of Nathan McAndrew and Daniel Worrall as the Redbacks prepare for what will be a tough morning session on Thursday.
Labuschagne was central to discussions with match officials on Tuesday when, after 50 overs following a rain-delayed start, he aired his concerns about balls rearing up with a nasty amount of bounce as balls rocketed towards his and opener Bryce Street’s heads.
Eventually the call was made by the umpires and match referee Steve Davis, a former Test umpire, to suspend play for the day after Davis conceded it would be “dangerous” to continue.
“It’s not undulated,” Davis said of the problem area on the pitch.
“It’s an area where the ball is sticking a bit, so there’s obviously some dampness underneath.”
Play resumed without issue on Wednesday as Street passed 50 and Labuschagne 30 as they got through the opening 10 overs without issue and Queensland reached 100 just one wicket down.
After play was halted on day one, Davis said both teams agreed to the move.
“It’s only about a metre square, but obviously once you see a ball doing that, if you’re any sort of bowler you’re going to aim for that spot,’ he said.
“There’s a potential of it being dangerous,
“It was obvious the umpires had some concerns and the players had some concerns.
“There was a couple of people that were hit on the gloves and in the stomach area, and it was just behaving a bit unusually and that always gives you a bit of an alert.
“Both captains were very reasonable about it.”
Originally published as Sheffield Shield: Usman Khawaja and Travis Head both stumble in battle for fifth Ashes spot
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