Australia captain Pat Cummins on Thursday confirmed that opener Marcus Harris has been dropped for the fifth Ashes Test as Usman Khawaja, riding on his twin centuries in Sydney, will open. The hosts have already won the series – lead 3-0. The fifth Test begins on January 14.
Khawaja was given a place in the Aussie squad, in the fourth Test, after Travis Head tested positive for COVID-19. The Pakistan-born batsman scored 137 and an unbeaten 101 in the two innings at the SCG. And now, with Head coming back, the home team has decided to retain Khawaja, dropping opener Marcus Harris.
Pat Cummins added that Australia’s best bowler in Melbourne and Sydney – Scott Boland – will have to pass a fitness test. The 32-year-old pacer suffered an elbow and rib injury during the drawn fourth Test. It Boland misses, Jhye Richardson is expected to make it to the Australia playing 11 alongside Mitchell Starc, who looks in good shape after playing four Tests.
Khawaja averages 96.80 as an opener. He has scored two centuries in seven innings at the position, including 145 in a day/night Test in against South Africa in South Africa. But he hasn’t batted higher than No 4 in his last 22 first class innings, during which time he has amassed six centuries and averages more than 65.
Harris is being described as the ‘fall guy’ in this situation. The 29-year-old opener has been dropped three times in his 14-match Test career. He played a match-winning 76 in the third Test in Melbourne.
Australian legend Adam Gilchrist believes that what creates a challenge is that Harris is not really struggling.
“What creates the challenge is that Marcus Harris is not struggling. He’s played a fantastic innings in Melbourne that went a long way to Australia winning that Test and setting it up. Even here (in Sydney) he’s shown he’s not out of his depth.”
“The only slight point that contradicts that is that everyone knows, and he knows, he hasn’t nailed the really big score that cements a spot for a number of Test matches or a number of series,” the former captain told Fox Sports.