Plus there’s a new favourite in the race to host the fifth Test, if and when Perth misses out.
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EX-AUSSIE KEEPER ‘CAN’T SEE’ KHAWAJA MISSING NO.5 SPOT
Former Australian vice-captain and Fox Cricket expert Brad Haddin believes Usman Khawaja will bat at No.5 in Brisbane.
Khawaja and Head are vying for one position in Australia’s middle order, with both having made big runs in white and red ball cricket so far this summer.
Speaking on Fox Cricket’s Follow-On podcast, Haddin argued for Khawaja and admitted surprise that Moises Henriques was not in contention for selection.
“I can’t see them picking Usman Khawaja in the squad and not playing him in the Test,” Haddin said.
“I see no reason why you’d have a 34-year-old in the squad if you are not going to play him. He’s been in good form. I know it’s tough on Travis Head. He will get his time playing for Australia.”
Haddin added: “I think someone like Khawaja, he’s experienced and pretty chilled with where he’s at as a cricketer and person.
“He’s been leading Queensland to very attractive cricket over the last couple of years and batting at four scoring runs. He has a good understanding with Steven Smith and Marnus Labuschagne. I don’t mind that experience.”
Henriques missed New South Wales’ first two Sheffield Shield live against Victoria as he was overseas following the Indian Premier League.
The batting all-rounder delayed his return to Sydney until November 1 to avoid two weeks of hotel quarantine, but had he not won an IPL deal, he would have played in the early season Shield matches and had more of an opportunity to push for a middle order berth.
In the solitary Shield game he played, the 34-year-old made 7 and 6 at the SCG against Victoria.
“I think Moises Henriques is unlucky,” Haddin said of his former teammate.
“He was in the South African squad and I thought he’d be in and around the squad for this first Test match. That’s the way it is. Maybe he has fallen victim to the poor white ball series leading into the T20 World Cup.
“I’m a bit surprised he wasn’t in and around the squad. He’s been really consistent for NSW over the last couple of years.”
Haddin said Mitchell Starc has earned the right to start the Ashes, but was convinced the three regular fast bowlers would not play all five Tests, which will likely give Jhye Richardson and maybe even Michael Neser an opportunity.
“They will learn from last summer,” he told the Follow-On podcast.
“The bowlers were very tired at the end against India.”
NEW FANCY TO HOST FIFTH TEST
Cricket Australia held a board meeting on Thursday and will hold another today, deciding whether to officially remove Perth as host, as expected.
Western Australia’s enforcement of 14-day quarantine will not be accepted by the players making it virtually impossible to play at Optus Stadium as originally planned.
Despite the MCG looming early as the favourite, Hobart’s Blundstone Arena is now tipped to host a day-night Test from January 14-18.
That’s despite a cold war between Cricket Tasmania and Cricket Australia over the handling of Tim Paine’s resignation as Test captain following his sexting scandal.
“This is CA’s opportunity to make history,” Tasmanian premier Peter Gutwein said.
“We’ve (Tasmania) never had an Ashes Test in Australia and importantly the Ashes are the pinnacle of Test cricket.
“We’ll have the biggest travelling show, which is Test cricket here, and importantly the biggest travelling circus, which is the Barmy Army.”
The state currently plans to lift Covid restrictions which would cap crowds at 10,000 in January, in time for the fifth Test.
It’s believed CA would be giving up up to $20 million in revenue by picking the smaller Hobart venue over the MCG, or even the SCG.
The Gabba will host the first Test on December 8-12, followed by the Adelaide Oval day-night Test on December 16-20, then the MCG Boxing Day Test on December 26-30, and the SCG Test on January 5-9.
‘NOT SUCH A DOMINANT FORCE’: AUSSIES DEALT BRUTAL REALITY CHECK
Elsewhere, England fast bowler James Anderson has declared Australia is not the “dominant force” it once was ahead of this year’s Ashes series.
The Poms have previously struggled down under but Anderson says it will be a different story this time around.
“I’m not just saying that. Quite often you do say that because you have to be positive, but we do genuinely believe we can win out here.”
That is despite history being against England in the opening Test in Brisbane, which begins in just under a week.
The Poms last won at the Gabba in 1986 and in fact Australia had not lost a Test match in Brisbane in 33 years before falling to India earlier this year.
That defeat though has given rival teams confidence Australia is not the same unstoppable force it once was down under.
“We know they are beatable in Australia,” Anderson said.
“We’ve seen teams do it. It’s not like years ago when they were such a dominant force, you would go there tentatively.
“India have won their last two tours here, South Africa have won here. It’s not an impossible task.”