Usman Khawaja could be Australia’s reserve opener in South Africa – Steve Smith

Taking note of opener Cameron Bancroft’s poor form at the top of the order during the recent Ashes series against England, Australia captain Steve Smith has declared that incumbent number 3 Usman Khawaja might have to step up and open the innings on their tour of South Africa in March, should Bancroft fail again.

The Australians will have to turn to promoting Usman Khawaja or Shaun Marsh up the order as a partner for David Warner should there be a need for change as their 15-man squad does not have a specialist back-up opener.

Khawaja has previously opened the batting on one occasion where he responded with a superb knock of 145 runs and setup a seven-wicket win over the Proteas in Adelaide. Marsh, presently batting at No.5 in the order has more experience of batting at the top as he has done so in five Test matches in the past.

Incumbent opener Bancroft will head to South Africa having yet to rubber-stamp his spot in the side. He scored an unbeaten 82 in his debut Test against England in Brisbane before falling away for the rest of the series to finish with 179 runs at 25.57.

Elaborating on the issue, Smith said, as reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, “I think there are a few guys that could certainly slip into that role. We saw Usman open the batting when Davey went off the field briefly in Adelaide and got a hundred there in really tough conditions. We have a few options there. I don’t think that will be an issue.”

Smith, who has been given a fortnight off by Cricket Australia to recover from his Ashes exploits, also put forth his views on the conditions that are likely to be on offer in South Africa.

“I guess the thing with South Africa and Australia, the conditions are probably the two most similar around the world. The pace in the wickets are generally pretty similar, and the pace and bounce. It just makes for a really good series,” he said.

The four-match Test series will begin on March 1 in Durban.


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