Usman Khawaja has been confirmed for Sunday's BBL finals match against the Melbourne Renegades after earlier expressing his doubts about playing. Khawaja starred for the Heat in a rain-affected BBL eliminator final against the Sydney Thunder on Friday night, belting 94 runs as the visitors won by eight runs via the DLS method.
Australia's opener was one of five members of the national Test squad to play in Friday night's BBL finals game, and faces a gruelling schedule in the coming days that culminates in a highly anticipated tour of India. The Aussie squad is set to fly out for India on Tuesday, with the first Test getting underway just over a week later on February 9.
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Earlier this week, the BBL told AAP that the Heat's Khawaja, Matt Renshaw and Marnus Labuschagne could all line up should the team make it through to Sunday's challenger final against the Melbourne Renegades. Their Test teammate Mitch Swepson will miss the game to attend a warm-up training camp for spinners flying out to India on Wednesday.
But Khawaja revealed on Friday night that was weighing up whether or not to play in Sunday's game against the Renegades, mindful that it's one of the few remaining chances he will have to spend time with his family before jetting off to India. On Saturday the Heat confirmed that Khawaja, Labuschagne and Renshaw would all play.
The Test players will travel to Melbourne for Sunday's game, before returning to Sydney on Monday and attending the Allan Border Medal ceremony. The next day they will be on a flight to India, with Khawaja set to be away from his wife Rachel and their young children Aisha and Ayla for almost seven weeks.
After scoring 94 in the Heat's win, Khawaja said he had yet to consider whether that was how he wanted to spend his last days in Australia for nearly two months. The Brisbane captain admitted that the brutally tough decision was something he would have to weigh up with his team and family in the coming hours.
"I haven't thought that far ahead if I'm being honest," he told reporters after Friday night's match. "We're obviously going away for six-and-a-half weeks, my family is coming over for the AB Medal that's happening (in Sydney) on the 30th. There's a lot happening right now.
"I wanted to just win this game and then I'll cross that bridge and figure out what I want to do. I'll have to talk to coach about it first and see what he can do."
After discussions with Heat coach Wade Seccombe, the Test trio were named in the squad to travel to Marvel Stadium and will be available for selection. "'Uz' and 'Marn' batted beautifully the other night and we're delighted to have them stick with the group for another match before they go to India," Seccombe said in a statement.
With the Thunder eliminated and his BBL cameo over, David Warner now has extra time at home before flying out for what is set to be his last Test tour of India. The Aussie opener would not reveal whether he would have played against the Renegades in the knockout final had the Thunder progressed, but encouraged his Test teammates at the Heat to do so.
"I don't have to answer that question now," Warner joked. "The Heat boys, it's good for Australian cricket that those guys are here and they're having that opportunity to play. With their momentum tonight, there's no reason why they wouldn't play."
— Lachlan McKirdy (@LMcKirdy7) January 28, 2023
Sydney Thunder eliminated via DLS method
Warner and his side could have been forgiven for feeling a little dudded in Friday night's BBL eliminator after inclement weather in Sydney wrecked any hopes they had of chasing down Heat's 5-203, which was a record BBL total at the Sydney Showground Stadium. Warner had the Sydneysiders off to a strong start (1-52) with his best knock (36 not out) of a lucrative BBL cameo.
However, the Thunder were still eight runs behind the DLS par score when showers forced the covers on in the seventh over. Play was set to resume 45 minutes later, with the Thunder requiring 38 runs from 13 balls in a rain-reduced match, before more bad weather forced the finals match to be abandoned and Brisbane declared winners.
The farcical scenes sparked outrage from cricket fans, with many questioning why the match couldn't either finish later or even resume the next day. Others claimed the DLS method favoured the side batting first, with calls to change the situation after supporters branded it a "pathetic" way for a finals match to be decided.
"I think it was quite achievable," a dejected Warner said about the adjusted target after the match. "But it is what it is. It's unfortunate there was a bit of rain but Ussie (Khawaja) and Marnus (Labushagne) played exceptionally well."
Khawaja's innings was his best in the BBL since the summer of 2015-16 and ensured he would finish the night as the tournament's highest run-scorer in finals - despite playing only eight innings in the post-season. He and Labuschagne initially ticked along at a steady rate with the bat after the early loss of Josh Brown (3) but the veteran cut loose with five boundaries from the first 10 balls after drinks to help guide the Heat to their match-winning total.
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