Aussies make brutal selection call ahead of fifth Ashes Test

Usman Khawaja will stay in Australia's squad for the fifth Ashes Test, at the expense Marcus Harris. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
Usman Khawaja will stay in Australia's squad for the fifth Ashes Test, at the expense Marcus Harris. (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

Marcus Harris has been dropped and Usman Khawaja will retain his place in the Australian Test team, set to open the final Ashes Test alongside David Warner.

The under pressure Harris was unable to save his place after Khawaja hit centuries in back to back innings during the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney.

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Khawaja had been called up for Travis Head, who tested positive prior to the fourth Test beginning.

Head will return to his place in the middle order, with Harris making way for Khawaja.

Having recorded a top score of 76 in what was an impressive innings in the Boxing Day Test, Harris has made just 179 runs at 29.83 for the series.

In announcing the squad for the fifth and final Ashes Test in Hobart, captain Pat Cummins said the decision had not taken Harris by surprise after weeks of pressure.

“I think he knew it was coming,” Cummins said.

“The message to Harry is we think he’s going really well. I thought Marcus has been really good, I think he’s been growing each game.

“He’s certainly part of the future.”

Harris, who has only passed 50 three times in 14 Tests and is yet to tally a century for Australia, was given sympathy from former Aussie great Adam Gilchrist.

The wicketkeeping legend said his recent form, though not spectacular, was a better indication of his standing.

“What creates the challenge is that Marcus Harris is not struggling,” he told Fox Sports this week.

“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.”

Sadly, the general consensus among fans was that Harris had been given a decent enough chance.

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Australia are expected to retain Khawaja in their XI for the fifth Ashes Test, with under-pressure opener Marcus Harris making way for Travis Head's return.

Khawaja cast doubt on his own prospects of playing in Hobart despite becoming just the third man to celebrate twin tons in a SCG Test.

But several signs at training on Wednesday night, when Harris batted in the nets alongside the squad's bowlers, pointed to Khawaja opening alongside David Warner.

Usman Khawaja hit a first-innings century to put Australia in commanding position\ in his Test return. (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)
Usman Khawaja hit duel centuries to put Australia in commanding position in his Test return. (Photo by DAVID GRAY/AFP via Getty Images)

Root is certain the left-hander will take part in the pink-ball Test beginning on Friday, admitting he was surprised Khawaja didn't play the entire series.

"He's a wonderful player," England's captain said.

"It was a phenomenal effort. What he managed to achieve last week was truly brilliant, so we need to make sure we keep him quiet as best we can.

"We've got some work to do."

The tourists are fresh from their best performance of a long summer, having survived 102 overs to salvage a draw in Sydney and remove an ignominious 5-0 series loss from the equation.

But it came at a major cost.

Stokes (side strain), Bairstow (thumb) and Jos Buttler (fractured finger) all suffered injuries during the fourth Test.

Buttler has already returned home.

With AAP

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