Stoic Khawaja blocks Marsh’s Cup challenge
AUSTRALIAN legends have called for Shaun Marsh to replace Usman Khawaja in the Australian World Cup line-up but the phlegmatic batsman is digging deep and digging in.
Khawaja's stubborn 88 (129 balls) on a used wicket at Lord's drove Australia to its 86-run win against New Zealand and victory against South Africa on Saturday night would seal top place on the ladder.
While Australian legends led by Shane Warne and Ian Chappell have called for Marsh to replace Khawaja, the No.3 batsman has the full support of coach Justin Langer and has accumulated 200 runs in his past three innings.
Khawaja said his match-winning knock against the Kiwis trumped his 89 against Bangladesh on a road at Trent Bridge two weeks ago.
"It was a lot harder - it was quite tough," Khawaja said.
"Even in my first over I tried to drive a couple and hit the stickers and hit high on the bat, so straight away I knew it wouldn't be as nice as some of the other wickets we played on.
"Then it was just trying to stay in there and score runs. Flat wickets are a lot easier to score on. I was just trying to bat out there and take it as deep as possible.
"I would much rather bat on a nicer wicket and score more freely. Obviously we lost a few wickets so we just had to take it deep and make as many partnerships as we could with batsmen coming in."
While the Australians are committed to using data to determine their five bowlers, the batting line-up only uses it to tweak their game plans against different bowlers.
Khawaja and shining light Alex Carey put on 107 runs after Australia slumped to 5-92 against New Zealand before the Mitchell Starc-led bowling attack sent down 172 dots to dismiss the Kiwis for just 157.
While Langer said he wasn't fussed where Australia played its semi-final, but finishing first would save Australia a travel day.
They play South Africa in Manchester on Saturday night and will stay on for the Old Trafford semi-final if they finish on top of the table.
That would mean just one travel day in 18 days, after a refreshed Australia enjoyed nine nights in London courtesy of back-to-back matches at Lord's, where the final will be staged.
Australia could lose to South Africa and still finish top if India drops one of its remaining games against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Khawaja has been targeted by bouncers this tournament, stemming from West Indies star Andre Russell putting him in hospital in the warm-up match and then dismissing him in Australia's second game.
But Khawaja said he was "watching the ball" when attacks targeted him.
"Everyone is the same, using their bumper," he said.
"You've got two bumpers every over and there are a few good fast bowlers around.
"We do the same. If you bowl it well enough it can be a very good ball. We exploit it and a lot of other bowlers around the world do the same."
Khawaja heaped praise on Carey and said the South Africa game would be treated seriously despite Australia qualifying for the semi-finals last week.
"He just batted beautifully. He made a very tough wicket look very easy," Khawaja said.
"He played positively at a time where it wasn't necessarily easy to play positive because it was me and him in and we knew Patty (Cummins) was coming in next.
"But he took the game on and did it beautifully. He got a few bad balls and put them away beautifully.
"He's been playing well the whole tournament and just really good to see his development, especially from this time last year when he was just trying to make his way in the Australian team."