Having lost the just-concluded third Test at Cape Town, Australia enter the final contest at Port Elizabeth licking their wounds. There’s going to be no Steve Smith. Warner, presumably under pressure thanks to the ball-tampering that led to Smith’s ouster finds himself burdened by an enormous challenge to do the bulk of scoring. Who does he have for support? Bancroft needs an able partner alongside to get going; his performances have been symbiotic in nature of construction and flourish when there’s momentum at the other end. Amid these circumstances, it is perennially important that Usman Khawaja scores. But what the Aussies may not be mightily aware of is something that stares them directly in the eye: Usman Khawaja is struggling for form. Is he not?
Struggling for runs
There’s hardly a question about whether he can fire. The perspective is, whether he will.
There’s little doubt about Khawaja’s ability as a batsman. Why would there be for a handy batting average of 42 depicts some solidity at the top level. But the only concern that might be worrying Australia is that Khwaja hasn’t been in a particularly rich vein of form.
In case you are wondering just how is that possible, here’s proof that suggests Usman Khawaja is struggling for form.
Heading into the final and decisive Johannesburg contest- Khawaja comes at the back of knocks like 14 and 6 at Kingsmead, 4 and 75 at St. George’s Park and, finally, 5 and 1 at Newlands. Would these indicate the kind of numbers an already embattled Australia would want to reflect on their number 3’s charts?
Perhaps not. Perhaps, other than the vital and impressive half-century that Khawaja gathered essaying grit and technical virtuosity, there’s hardly any score he’s generated that’s worth remembering. His impact with having struck merely 105 runs from the series so far reflects poorly on a batsman who is so much better. This is when he’s had not only 6 innings to contribute but particularly in the Cape Town-Test a great opportunity to mount a fightback for Australia.
Khawaja’s overall record vs. SA suggests emphatic irony
Surely, there could a lot riding on Khawaja’s head at the moment. But here’s what’s most surprising about his recent dry patch. Khwaja hasn’t fared poorly in tradition when competing against South Africa. Against the same opponents that he’s currently dabbling with, Khawaja’s blade hasn’t been all that dull where overall performances stand. Here’s a perspective. Would you cast aside an average of 35 against South Africa for being not telling enough of his caliber? Of the 11 fifties he has scored in his Test career, 4 have come against the Proteas. Even though most of them were scored with Steyn firing all cylinders.
That said, if you happened to have observed Khawaja’s dismissals in the recent outings, he doesn’t seem to have essayed any massive corrosiveness in technique. He’s seemed perfectly fine in anticipating the length of the ball and hasn’t really floundered away, coming in contact with deliveries meandering away from his off stump. So what might have plummeted his game to an extent that we find Khwaja struggling for form? Here’s an indication. Thus far, from six innings, he’s lasted merely for 213 deliveries. While there hasn’t been a defining inning in there, we find an average inching only closer to 36 minutes per inning a tad bit underwhelming for a batsman of Khwaja’s caliber.
That told, the math regarding Australia’s impending battle remains simple. If they are to even hold close to a draw, the triumvirate of Khawaja-Warner-and one among Marsh brothers needs to come in handy. Else, they’re looking at a missed opportunity in Kagiso Rabada-land.