Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has named Usman Khawaja as his choice to open the batting in the second Ashes Test if opener David Warner is unable to play due to a rib injury. At the same time, Ponting added that Khawaja, who lost out on the number five spot to Travis Head, hasn’t opened much, something which he sees as a point of concern.
Warner did not field on Friday, Day Three of the Test, after having suffered severe bruising to his ribs caused by two nasty blows while batting on Day Two of the first Test at The Gabba. Warner had made an important 94 in Australia’s first innings score of 425.
“If (Warner) can’t play, I think it’s probably Khawaja that goes in and opens the batting. Although he hasn’t done it the last couple of 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,” Ponting was quoted as saying by cricket.com.au.
Warner was sent for scans on Thursday after being hit on ribs by pacer Mark Wood when he was in single digits before Ben Stokes hit him on the same spot when he was batting at 26. Though scans showed no fractures and Australia expect he will be able to bat in the second innings, Warner could be a doubt for the day-night Test at Adelaide starting from December 16 if discomfort in ribs persists.
“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. 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 (Khawaja) 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,” added Ponting, who played 168 Tests for Australia.
The 46-year-old expressed worries over Warner’s injury and pointed out something which he had never seen before with the explosive left-hander. “It’s a worry that he’s not out there at all. 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.”