'What a joke': Cricket fans fume over Usman Khawaja 'disgrace'

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Usman Khawaja, pictured here during an Australian training session in Brisbane.
Usman Khawaja looks on during an Australian training session in Brisbane. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

Cricket fans were left fuming on Sunday when it was announced that Usman Khawaja will be left out of Australia's XI for the first Ashes Test.

Australia captain Pat Cummins revealed Travis Head will play ahead of Khawaja at the Gabba on Wednesday after the two batsmen battled it out for the No.5 spot in the order.

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Head had lost his place in the side to Matthew Wade last summer, but was recalled for the tour of South Africa that was subsequently called off earlier this year.

The South Australian made just 183 runs in 11 County Championship innings for Sussex this year while a century in his last innings - ironically after Queensland captain Khawaja had asked him to follow on - improved Head's Sheffield Shield record to 394 runs at an average of 49.25 this campaign.

Khawaja's sublime Sheffield Shield form rocketed him into contention for his first cap since the 2019 Ashes series, but Cummins said Head deserved his chance.

"It was a tight one, the selectors make the call, but both are really good options, with really strong form," he said.

"Experience is great from Uzzie and we're really lucky to have that in the squad.

"But Trav's been playing a lot for us the last couple of years, churned out runs in England and Australia and is ready to go."

Fans had been calling for Khawaja to open the batting alongside David Warner, however selectors revealed last month that Marcus Harris had secured his spot there.

Khawaja averages 96.80 when opening the batting for Australia (seven innings) and has a phenomenal record on home soil.

Writing for Yahoo Sport Australia last month, Adam Lucius said it would be a "crime against cricket" if Khawaja was overlooked.

"Khawaja is at the peak of his powers both physically and mentally," Lucius wrote.

"He can do no more. To overlook him would be a crime against Australian cricket."

Mitchell Starc keeps his place despite pressure

Shane Warne has led the noise around Mitchell Starc's place in the Test side, calling for the left-armer to be replaced by Jhye Richardson.

However selectors have stuck with Starc for the opening Test starting Wednesday.

"Starcy's great .. we knew we had three weeks building up and he's been building up nicely, he was fast (in training on Saturday), swinging the ball big," Cummins said.

"We weren't surprised but it was great to see and with some of the best batsmen in the world (Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne), looked like he was a handful, so good signs."

Tasked with the rare honour of captaining as a fast bowler, Cummins said he had asked his teammates for "strong feedback" about his own bowling.

Travis Head and Marcus Harris, pictured here during a nets session.
Travis Head and Marcus Harris have both been included in Australia's side for the first Ashes Test. (Photo by WILLIAM WEST/AFP via Getty Images)

Cummins opened the bowling at times last summer but said he was leaning towards allowing Starc and Josh Hazelwood to set the tone in Brisbane.

"No (I haven't decided) is the honest answer; I probably won't (open) first-up, but we've been quite fluid in recent years, pending the situation," Cummins said.

"Maybe (I will if it's) late in the day and with only a couple of overs to bowl and I feel I want to have a crack."

India upset Australia at the Gabba in January, but more bowler-friendly conditions are expected when the ground hosts the first Test on the back of a historically-wet Spring.

Sun has crucially drenched the playing surface in recent days, Cummins joking with groundstaff on Sunday that they'd done enough and the pitch should be left in its striking green state.

with AAP

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