'Good to see': Aussie ends 863-day exile in big Ashes selection call

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  • Usman Khawaja
    Usman Khawaja
    Australian cricketer
  • Joe Root
    Joe Root
    English cricketer (born 1990)
Pictured here, Usman Khawaja at a media opportunity before the fourth Ashes Test.
Usman Khawaja will end his long Test hiatus after being named in Australia's XI for the fourth Ashes Test. Pic: AAP

Usman Khawaja is set to end an 863-day exile from Test cricket after being named in Australia's XI for the fourth Ashes Test in Sydney, starting Wednesday.

In the only change to the Aussie side that destroyed England at the MCG to retain the urn, Khawaja comes in for Travis Head, who tested positive for Covid-19.

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Josh Hazlewood had looked in fine fettle during a nets session on Monday, but selectors have decided not to risk the Aussie quick as Scott Boland keeps his place in the Sid after a debut to remember in the Boxing Day Test.

Boland took the extraordinary figures of 6-7 in the second innings at the MCG to help roll England for 68.

The Victorian quick will line up alongside Pat Cummins and fellow quick Mitchell Starc, with Nathan Lyon the sole spinning option for the Aussies.

With rain forecast and a rather grassy wicket on offer, selectors ultimately opted against including another spinner in the form of Mitchell Swepson, while paceman Jhye Richardson is also being treated with caution after pulling up sore from the Adelaide Test.

However, it was the news of Khawaja's long-awaited return that had many fans taking to social media with excitement.

The 35-year-old hasn't played a Test match for Australia since being dropped during the 2019 Ashes tour in England.

England are yet to name their XI for a match that will see Joe Root become England's record Test match captain when he leads the team for the 60th time.

Root equalled predecessor Sir Alastair Cook on 59 games during the Boxing Day rout in Melbourne.

The achievement was overshadowed by England losing the Ashes. The spectre of COVID-19 has since added to anxiety and ruling head coach Chris Silverwood out of the Test.

Joe Root set to break England record 

Root is well aware that only a vast improvement by his side would allow him to truly enjoy the moment.

"I'm immensely proud to have been given the opportunity to do this. That's not wavered from day one and it won't until it finishes, whenever that is," he said.

"I'm very passionate about playing for England, then to captain England as well is a huge honour. All I ever want to do is try to get the best out of the group, to see us perform and play at a level everyone back home is proud of.

"It's hurt me deeply that we've not managed to do that on this trip and I'm desperate for us to put in those performances. I really care about the role and it would be nice to finish this tour off in a much better way.

"I'd love to be able to walk away here, more than anything, with a win. Personal goals make you proud and it means you are pulling your weight and giving your team a good chance of winning, but nothing compares to winning a Test match and I'm desperate to do that."

Seen here, England captain Joe Root watches on during the third Ashes Test at the MCG.
Joe Root will captain England for a record-breaking 60th time in Test matches during the fourth Ashes Test at the SCG. Pic: Getty

The SCG has bad memories for Root.

As well as suffering from a bout of gastroenteritis here four years ago as a 4-0 series defeat was wrapped up, it was this ground where Root was dropped for the only time by England in 2014.

It is a moment that has never left him and one he has been passing on to his struggling team-mates.

"It's important if guys haven't been in that situation before and haven't had to deal with that, you share your own experiences," he said.

"I remember being left out, how upset I was...how angry I was. You learn lessons from that. They are some of the conversations you need to have. Sydney is obviously a special Test match.

"You look at some of the performances in previous tours...you look at 2010/11, winning here and how special that was. That will live long in the memory of fans and players.

"It was here Goughy (Darren Gough) got a hat-trick. It's a venue where a number of special things have happened for England players and it's an opportunity to do just that."

Australia XI: Marcus Harris, David Warner, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja, Cameron Green, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins (c), Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Scott Boland

with AAP

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