Ashes 2021-22 | If David Warner is injured, Usman Khawaja can open the batting, says Ricky Ponting

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Usman Khawaja scored 460 runs at 65.71 in the Sheffield Shield in build-up to the Ashes

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Ashes 2021-22 | If David Warner is injured, Usman Khawaja can open the batting, says Ricky Ponting

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SportsCafe Desk

12/10/2021

Ricky Ponting feels that Usman Khawaja can replace David Warner as an opener going into the second Ashes Test, if the former is ruled out with injury. Warner didn’t take the field at all in Brisbane on Friday, after was hit on his ribs off the bowling of Mark Wood and Ben Stokes on Day 2.

David Warner didn’t take the field at all on Day 3 of the Brisbane Test, having suffered severe bruising on his ribs a day before. Warner was hit twice on his ribs - once each by Mark Wood and Ben Stokes - during his 94-run knock in Australia’s first-innings effort of 425.

While it remains to be seen whether he can bat again in Australia’s second innings, and be match-fit for the pink-ball Test in Adelaide, Ricky Ponting feels that Usman Khawaja could be the ideal replacement at the top, should the need arise.

“If (Warner) can't play, I think it's probably Khawaja that goes in and opens the batting,” Ponting told cricket.com.au.b“Although he hasn't done it the last couple years for Queensland he's done it for Australia before. He's obviously in really good form, so I think that's probably the way to go. I think he's experienced enough, but the fact he hasn't done it for a while would be a bit of a concern.”

Khawaja, who scored 460 runs at 65.71 in the Sheffield Shield in build-up to the series, was overlooked for the series opener with Travis Head being preferred, and the 27-year-old responded with a quickfire 152 to power Australia to a 278-run first-innings lead in the ongoing Test.

Ponting remarked that batting will be tough under lights in Adelaide, but backed Khawaja to deliver the goods if selected.

“As a batsman, if there's one place you probably don't want to be opening it’s a pink ball game in Adelaide because you might happen to get put in at night,” said the former Australia captain.

“We saw what England did there on the last (Ashes) tour (in 2017-18) – there was one night in that Test match when England got to bowl late with a brand new ball and it swung all over the place.

“I think he can do it, and if it's not him then I'm not sure where I’d be looking at it because you don’t want to be bringing anyone young in because it’s such a big series.”

As for Warner’s injury, the scans showed no breaks, but with him not taking the field, Ponting was worried if the 35-year-old could be match-fit for remainder of the first Test and later in the series.

“It's a worry that he's not out there at all,” Ponting said. “We’ll have a better idea when he bats or if he bats at all in the second innings.

“I noticed that after he got hit, he came out after one of the breaks and you could see that he had a little (chest) guard over that area. I got a bit worried about it then because I've never seen him with a chest guard on before. Even if it’s just bruising, I would think that he'd be out there fielding so there might be a bit more to it than what we're hearing.”

England ended Day 3 at 220/2, still 58 behind Australia in the second innings. Skipper Joe Root (86*) and Dawid Malan (80*) partnered for an unbeaten 159-run stand after openers Haseeb Hameed (27) and Rory Burns (13) were dismissed early.

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