Australia’s Khawaja set for Boxing Day return



Usman Khawaja said Monday he was confident his recurring hamstring problems were behind him as the batsman works towards a recall to the Australia team for the second Test against the West Indies.

Khawaja returned from a spell on the sidelines in Sunday’s Big Bash League Twenty20 match, scoring an explosive 109 off 70 balls for the Sydney Thunder in their one-run win over the Melbourne Stars.

“I’m very happy I got through the game. I feel really good today,” Khawaja told reporters. “Just normal general soreness, the hammies feel really good.”

The 29-year-old is expected to return to Australia’s Test side against the West Indies at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday, at the expense of either Joe Burns or Shaun Marsh.

Pakistan-born Khawaja has been out for a month since injuring his hamstring during Australia’s second Test against New Zealand in Perth.

He has spent most of his time out at Cricket Australia’s training base in Brisbane, focusing on the troublesome tendons and muscles.

“My hamstrings are definitely stronger than they have been in the last three years. The last testing I had to do on Friday was a hamstring strength test,” he said.

“My hamstrings came up stronger than they’ve been in the last three years. “I did a lot of hard work over the last four weeks, the trainers up at the training base pushed me pretty hard. That’s what I needed to do.”

Test coach Darren Lehmann said last month that Khawaja must “get fit and strong and faster first and make sure we don’t have another injury”.

“I pushed myself pretty hard,” Khawaja admitted. “I couldn’t go there and try to nurse it or not go 100 per cent because I know that’s not what Boof (Lehmann) wants.”

Khawaja has been sidelined since scoring 174 and 121 in the first two Tests against New Zealand last month.

During his absence, replacement Marsh made a strong case for his retention with his highest Test score of 182 during the first Test against the Windies in Hobart. That could leave Burns as the possible fall guy.