'Massive respect': Cricket world erupts over Usman Khawaja act

Usman Khawaja, pictured here in action for Queensland against South Australia.
Usman Khawaja potentially cost himself another chance to bat. Image: Getty

Aussie cricket fans were left stunned on Thursday when a selfless move from Usman Khawaja completely backfired on his hopes of earning selection in the first Ashes Test.

Captaining Queensland in their Sheffield Shield clash against South Australia, Khawaja decided to enforce the follow-on with the Redbacks trailing by 197 runs after the first innings.

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The decision was the right one for the situation in the game, however Khawaja could have easily opted to bat again in an attempt to score some runs and impress Test selectors.

Instead, Khawaja handed Travis Head - his opposition captain and the man fighting for the same spot in the Test side - the chance to do exactly that.

And Head grasped the opportunity with both hands, scoring a brilliant century that will give Test selectors plenty of food for thought.

Khawaja's selfless decision may backfire on a personal level, as he's thought to be vying with Head for Australia's vacant No.5 slot for the Ashes opener against England.

The follow-on all-but guaranteed Queensland the win, however it looked like costing Khawaja another chance to press his Ashes case.

Luckily for the former Test star, he was back in the middle on Friday and made a quick-fire 52 not out off 36 balls to continue his fine run of form.

Travis Head, pictured here after scoring a century for South Australia against Queensland.
Travis Head made a timely century after Usman Khawaja's decision to enforce the follow-on. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Despite Head's heroics, South Australia were bowled out for 284 in their second innings with Bulls paceman Gurinder Sandhu claiming 6-47.

Sandhu, after collecting his best first-class figures and first five-wicket haul since his debut Shield game for NSW eight years ago, praised Khawaja's follow-on decision.

"He's a captain that puts his team first, that is amazing and probably a reason he is the captain," Sandhu said.

"He's not a selfish person at all. It (the follow-on) was what the team wanted and he must have felt the same."

Fans and commentators also praised Khawaja's team-first move and felt for the unlucky star.

Queensland record big victory over South Australia

Both Khawaja (four) and Head (eight) failed in the first innings at Karen Rolton Oval.

Head made amends in his second dig, reaching his second ton of the Shield season from 146 balls faced with 11 fours.

But the SA skipper, who also cracked 230 in a one-day match last month, fell just three balls later.

Batting first, Queensland posted 299 with Test star Marnus Labuschagne top-scoring with 110.

They then recorded a comfortable eight-wicket win on Friday, reaching 2-88 with Khawaja and Labuschagne (28 not out off 46 balls) guiding them home.

"I'm going to be 100 per cent honest with you, it's not even on my mind right now," Khawaja said of his shootout with Head.

"I'm honestly just trying to win games for Queensland and whatever will be, will be.

"Heady deserves it as much as I do. I'm really good mates with him. I have got no issues with whatever happens."

Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja, pictured here walking from the field after Queensland's win over South Australia.
Marnus Labuschagne and Usman Khawaja walk from the field after Queensland's win over South Australia. (Photo by Mark Brake/Getty Images)

Khawaja and Head have both scored two Shield tons this season, with the Bulls skipper also posting two half-centuries and Head scoring one.

The 34-year-old Khawaja, whose last Test was in August 2019, said his mind was at ease, when in the past he would have been anxious about possible Test selection.

"I wasn't always mellow," he said.

"This is experience ... I have just come to realise after a long time of a lot of work with myself and my mind and just learning about myself, it (being anxious) just doesn't help.

"The best time I play is when I am relaxed.

"And, to be honest I have got a lot of things in life that I am very grateful for and those are the things now that I focus on.

"Because I know within the cricket bubble how much it can get you and that is how I used to be - it has taken years and years of practice to not be that way."

with AAP

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