HOBART: Shaun Marsh or the returning Usman Khawaja are in the frame to open Australia’s innings in the Boxing Day Test against the West Indies, coach Darren Lehmann said Sunday.
Khawaja, who scored 174 and 121 batting three against New Zealand before he injured a hamstring, has been included in a 13-man squad for the second Test starting in Melbourne on December 26.
Khawaja’s replacement, Marsh, has made a strong case for his retention with his highest Test score of 182 in Australia’s innings and 212-run win over the West Indies in Hobart.
While the expectation is that either Marsh or Khawaja will miss out in Melbourne, coach Lehmann raised the prospect of one of them playing as opener, possibly at the expense of Joe Burns.
“I would be comfortable with Khawaja opening the batting, but the captain (Steve Smith) might not want that, so we have to work that out,” Lehmann told reporters.
“Shaun’s probably more comfortable (batting at five) but if we need him to play and we need an opener then he can do that job as well.
“It gets down to the make-up of the side, what we go with. If he’s in that and he has to open then you’d rather that than not playing.”
Marsh played a crucial second innings knock of 49 in difficult conditions to help Australia beat New Zealand in the Adelaide day-night Test and then he shared in record fourth-wicket game-changing partnership of 449 runs with Adam Voges in Hobart.
“That’s what we have to work out in two weeks. We have to wait to see if Usman is fit first, then we have the dilemma,” Lehmann said.
“If he’s fit, then he’s made two hundreds in his previous two Test matches so you’d think he’d been in form to play.
“We certainly need him playing and with the hamstring we don’t want him playing Test match cricket if he’s not fully fit.
“He will have to be sharp in those Big Bash League T20 games he’s playing and get through those then we’ll make a decision from there.
“But if he comes back in then someone’s going to miss out and we just have to work out who that is.”
Burns scored 71 and 129 in the first Test against the Kiwis in Brisbane, but has since struggled.
Lehmann said bowling all-rounder Mitch Marsh would not be making way for Khawaja in Melbourne.
Lehmann said the West Indies needed their senior players to stand up and help the inexperienced team members.
“It’s disappointing the way they played this particular game more so with the ball than the bat,” he said.
“They have some issues they have to sort out, they are going through a young group and they are going through a rebuilding phase.
“They have got some great people around them and I’m sure they will bounce back.
“You want to see that Calypso style getting to the forefront of their cricket in a few years but at the moment they’ve got a bit of inexperience and they need their senior players to stand up.”