How Usman Khawaja incident almost exposed Cricket Australia's Matt Renshaw gamble

The Aussie Test side were without a back-up batter when Khawaja was forced to retire hurt.

Usman Khawaja and Matt Renshaw.
Matt Renshaw had already left the Aussie Test squad when Usman Khawaja was hit. Image: Getty

The Australian cricket team narrowly avoided an embarrassing situation during the first Test against the West Indies on Friday after Usman Khawaja was forced to retire hurt. The Aussie opener was struck on the jaw by a Shamar Joseph delivery, and had to be taken to hospital for precautionary scans.

Thankfully the scans revealed no fractures, and Khawaja passed an initial concussion test. But the scary incident sparked questions about what the Aussies would have done if Khawaja had failed the concussion test in a different situation.

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Pat Cummins' side were only chasing 26 for victory after the West Indies were bundled out for 120 in their second dig, and they'd reached 0-25 when Khawaja was hit. Marnus Labuschagne only took two balls to hit the winning run, so the Khawaja incident didn't prove costly at all.

But it could have been complete embarrassment if the Aussies were chasing a bigger total, after they'd allowed back-up batter Matt Renshaw to leave the team to play in the BBL for the Brisbane Heat on Friday night. Renshaw was selected as the only reserve batter in the 13-man Test squad, and could have come into the game as a concussion replacement if needed.

But Cricket Australia allowed him to leave the Test team on Thursday night to link up with the Heat on the Gold Coast for their clash with the Sydney Sixers on Friday night. It meant the Test team were without a reserve batter for the entirety of Friday's play.

Renshaw would have flown back to Adelaide in time for day four of the Test on Saturday, but the match was wrapped up before lunch on Friday. The decision had sparked questions about what the Aussies would have done if they required a concussion substitute on Friday during Renshaw's absence.

Scott Boland was the only other non-playing member of the squad, but he would only be allowed to replace a concussed bowler due to rules around like-for-like replacements. If Khawaja had failed the concussion test and the Aussies were chasing a bigger victory target, they would have been left with just 10 players.

Usman Khawaja.
Usman Khawaja was forced to retire hurt after copping a nasty knock to the jaw. (Photo by Mark Brake - CA/Cricket Australia via Getty Images)

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Imagine the controversy that would have created if the Australians lost due to not having a concussion substitute. Thankfully the embarrassing situation was avoided due to the lacklustre showing of the West Indies, who only mustered 188 and 120 with the bat.

As for Renshaw, he only contributed 16 off 10 balls as the Heat lost to the Sixers by 39 runs and missed a chance to progress straight through to a home BBL final. The Sixers will host the final at the SCG instead, while the Heat will now play the winner of Saturday night's elimination final between the Perth Scorchers and Adelaide Strikers.

Matt Renshaw in the BBL with the Brisbane Heat.
Matt Renshaw was released from the Test squad to play for the Brisbane Heat in the BBL. (Photo by Chris Hyde/Getty Images)

While Khawaja has been cleared of any fractures and passed the initial concussion test, he's not out of the woods just yet. He will be tested for concussion again on Saturday, and would be ruled out of the second Test starting in Brisbane next Thursday if he fails.

Renshaw looms as Khawaja's likely replacement if the opener is ruled out, and thankfully there are no more clashes between the BBL finals and Tests. The Heat play again on Monday night, before the Sixers host the final on Wednesday - 24 hours before the second Test starts.

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