In the last week of March, 2018, Khawaja was part of the Australian team pilloried for egregious ball tampering and an even worse cover-up in South Africa, leaving a young deputy Jimmy Peirson to lift the Shield and then see Matt Renshaw and Joe Burns spirited away to fly across the Indian Ocean as replacement players for the banned Cameron Bancroft, David Warner and Steven Smith.
It’s an experience that Peirson remembers vividly as taking sizeable gloss off what is usually the most glittering prize in Australian domestic cricket. “It was day three of the game when that [scandal] broke and we were just in shock, we didn’t understand what was going on or how big it would get,” he told ESPNcricinfo this week. “Then by the end of that game we had guys literally pulled out of our team song to go ‘mate, pack your bags, you’re going to South Africa’ – Matty Renshaw and Joe Burns, they went over and played.
“So we very quickly went from winning the Shield and the euphoria of that to having them go over there to deal with what was happening. It was a bittersweet moment, we wanted to celebrate our achievement with those guys, but it was also very satisfying to see them go, although the circumstances weren’t fantastic. It’s certainly burned into my memory, that weird feeling in Australian cricket as a whole at that time.”
Three summers and one pandemic later, Peirson is happy to have handed the captaincy back to Khawaja, who in the wake of being discarded by the national team has proven himself a thoughtful and astute – both strategically and tactically – leader of the Bulls.
“He’s quite calm, whereas I’m not so calm in some situations so he’s a great factor for us and someone I’ve learned a lot from,” Peirson said. “I really appreciate that he’s using me more in terms of tactically coming to me and asking for my opinion on things, which is helping me to develop in my tactical role in the side, and I’m really enjoying working with him.
“When Usman went away [in 2018] and I was given the captaincy, it was something I was completely shocked by. I was taken off-guard and I actually considered not taking it on, because I didn’t feel like I was ready. But I’m glad I took it on, I learned so much and I was lucky that year was similar to this year where we had very few injuries and the same bowling attack for the whole season with our guys hitting their straps.
I think the team that comes first should have that little bit of advantage that you have to beat them [outright]. Because a team could come first by 15 points and they’re clearly the best team in the competition. They should have a massive advantage
Usman Khawaja on bonus points being used to decide a drawn final
“I was very lucky that the team ran itself and I didn’t have to make any massive calls. I had guys like Joe Burns there the whole year who really helped guide me in some of the decision-making. So I was making it up as I went and I was really lucky we managed to win the Shield that year.”
One area in which Khawaja has shown himself adept as a leader is in helping to change attitudes about spin bowling. He recalled a pointed conversation with the state coach Wade Seccombe that helped turn Mitchell Swepson from a week-to-week selection proposition to a fixture in the team and now a genuine challenger to Nathan Lyon’s spin supremacy.
“I think it was a line in the sand last year,” Khawaja said. “I remember talking to ‘Chuck’, Wade Seccombe, my coach about it. We were at the Gabba and we were umming and ahing whether to play Swepson.
“It was probably the third game and I said, ‘look, Australia has Nathan Lyon and they’re playing at the Gabba.’ And he said, ‘yes.’ So I said, ‘well we’ve got to play Swepo every single game. If they’re playing the best spinner, why aren’t we playing our best spinner?’ I think that was the line in the sand and since then we’ve always picked him.”
At the same time, Khawaja has been driving towards a title that has personally eluded him. He played for New South Wales in the 2011 Shield final on the losing side, and spoke passionately in his opposition to the new system that no longer awards the competition to the top team in the event of a draw.
“They talked about taking out the Shield final – I love the Shield final, I think it should be there, but I think the team that comes first should have that little bit of advantage that you have to beat them [outright],” he said. “Because a team could come first by 15 points and they’re clearly the best team in the competition. They should have a massive advantage. It’s not like a BBL tournament where you’re playing one day at a time, it’s four days at a time and takes a lot to win a red-ball game. Ten games, it takes a lot to get there.”
That passion, Khawaja noted, was a byproduct of how much interest he has felt about the Shield in his adopted state. Queensland, famously, did not win their first Shield title until 1995, spawning a sense of overdue reward that has added to the level of interest retained in a competition that is often reduced in status to that of “research and development”.
“I’ve got people from Mackay, Townsville, random people coming up to me and going ‘good luck with the Shield’, you realise how big Queensland is and you realise how much people care about the Shield, especially when it comes to country towns in Queensland,” Khawaja said. “First and foremost we have a lot of support here and it’d be really nice to win a Shield, because to me it seems a lot of people still care about it, particularly in the country areas of Queensland.
“Queensland’s a big state, there’s a lot of people living in the country areas, and so is New South Wales to an extent, but I think when you first move up to Queensland, you know how much Queensland love their sport, but you don’t realise how much until you come up here. Now I’m a Queenslander, as I say to my wife I bleed maroon, I love it up here, it’s my home. We love our sport and we want to win whether it’s in footy, in anything, particularly cricket.
“It’s good to see, in a world so BBL-dominated, that there are still so many people who love the Shield game. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
Peirson, too, is eager to reclaim the Shield, as much because the last one disappeared in a Newlands-heightened blur as anything else. “It all went by so fast,” he said. “I told the guys that I really want to enjoy this week and enjoy a Shield final. Plenty of guys haven’t played one and plenty of guys haven’t won one.”
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig
England vs New Zealand 2021
England fast bowler may face surgery as ECB plan next steps of recovery
Jofra Archer has been ruled out of England’s two-Test series against New Zealand, starting at Lord’s on June 2, and may face surgery on his troublesome right elbow after failing to come through this week’s return to first-class action.
Archer, who was withdrawn from this year’s IPL prior to its postponement earlier this month, had undergone a series of cortisone injections to enable him to get through the T20I leg of England’s white-ball tour of India in March.
He also underwent an operation on the middle finger of his right hand while receiving further treatment on his elbow, to remove a splinter of glass following a bizarre incident involving a fish-tank. He showed no ill effects following that treatment and has been playing without protection on the affected digit.
After a low-key return to action for Sussex’s second XI against Surrey two weeks ago, Archer appeared to be returning to his best when he picked up two wickets, including his England Test team-mate Zak Crawley, in a hostile new-ball burst on his return to the County Championship against Kent at Hove this week.
However, he bowled just five overs in Kent’s second innings, and none on the final two days of the match, a situation that appeared to have caused confusion for his Sussex captain Ben Brown on the third morning, when he gestured for Archer to open the bowling but had to turn instead to his team-mate George Garton.
“I think there was some confusion over the state of his elbow,” Ian Salisbury, Sussex’s head coach, said at the time. “Ben thought he was going to bowl but his elbow’s sore and so he couldn’t bowl. Regarding any other information about his elbow, it’s the ECB’s job to answer that.”
An ECB statement subsequently confirmed that Archer “was suffering from pain in his right elbow when bowling and was unable to bowl in the final two days of the match.
“The England and Sussex medical teams will now seek guidance,” the statement continued, “and Archer will see a medical consultant later this week to determine the next course of action on the management of his elbow.”
The option of surgery may be the preferred course of action for Archer and for England – not to mention his IPL franchise, Rajasthan Royals – given his importance to the team’s plans across formats in the back-end of the year.
As the MVP in the last IPL in November 2020, and following a series of hostile displays in the 3-2 series loss in India, Archer’s value to England’s T20I attack is paramount, especially given that the team will go into the T20 World Cup in October and November as one of the favourites, and seeking to become the first team to hold the 50-over and 20-over titles concurrently.
Then there is the Ashes campaign in Australia hot on that tournament’s heels – a tour that England’s Test captain, Joe Root, admitted this week was the “pinnacle” of their plans for 2021, notwithstanding a five-match home series against India before that.
In the meantime, England have already indicated that they will be giving opportunities to fringe members of their Test squad during the New Zealand series – not least among them, Archer’s fellow Sussex seamer Ollie Robinson, who has been a fixture in the bio-secure environment without yet being given a Test debut.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket
Recent Match Report – Kent vs Sussex Group 3 2021
A whole lot of not a lot at Hove, but it’s an improvement on this time last year
Sussex 256 (van Zyl 52; Quinn 4-54, Gilchrist 3-51, Stevens 3-64) drew with Kent 145 (Leaning 63, Robinson 3-29, Garton 3-65) and 387 for 4 dec (Leaning 127*, Robinson 85, Crawley 85)
A match that had once seemed likely to end in a Sussex victory with Jofra Archer displaying his fitness for Test cricket ended in the most sclerotic of draws with Archer not even on the field. The first of these outcomes had always seemed likely once Kent had survived a short session on Saturday, and the second was probable once the England bowler’s sore elbow had prevented him bowling that same evening.
Despite their lowly positions in Group C these sides never appeared to contemplate the possibility of setting up a game and the 43 overs we saw this afternoon might not be numbered among the most gripping of the season. Other correspondents could even judge them balls-achingly tedious.
But Jack Leaning will take a different view. The former Yorkshire batsman notched only his second first-class century since 2017 and will approach Thursday’s game against Glamorgan in a more confident mood. Likewise, from their different perspectives, Tom Clark, who took his maiden first-class wicket, and Tawanda Muyeye, who batted half an hour for 12 not out on his debut. A drop of red ink is as comforting as a duvet to a young professional making his way. Every solid defensive shot is a moment.
And if these slightly aimless sessions were still a disappointment we could scourge no one but ourselves. On Friday, when a 104-over day had heaved itself beyond seven o’clock, we little thought how fortunate we were to see any cricket at all, let alone to be doing so when millions could not.
Zak Crawley was batting on that second evening, so such ingratitude required public abasement. But our penance, such as it might have been, was useless. The following evening, when only 24 overs were possible, Crawley was dismissed by the excellent Jack Carson and even that moment was given the elbow by Archer’s inaction, forced or otherwise.
Thus to Sunday with the Channel turquoise in its shallows but gravely blue farther out to sea. A pleasant dawn was replaced by an unlucky bag of showers, some of them slight, others heavy with Anabaptist doom. While David Millns and Graham Lloyd made one of their inspections the clouds to the west were grey as an undertaker’s work-suit; to the east they were blue as one of Bryan Ferry’s more exotic two-piece numbers. Birds gathered ravenously on the white pyramidal roofs of the hospitality suites. By the way, the gulls in Hove have clearly been watching Alfred Hitchcock movies; I’ve seen smaller turkeys. The white thugs waited for scraps; we waited for cricket.
At ten past one our patience received its reward when the Sussex team, minus Archer, took the field and Carson bowled the first over from the Cromwell Road End. The cricket soon became good-humoured, gentler in its rhythms and enriched by jokes and encouragement. Neither side could win the game but the practice had value for Leaning, whose back foot drive off George Garton was the stroke of the day. A little while later he swept Delray Rawlins for a single to reach his century and Ollie Robinson was attempting to emulate that feat before he was lbw to Clark for 85 late in the piece.
And so concluded a match in which we had been at the mercy of not only the elements but also the endless work of the Sussex groundstaff and the good judgement of Messrs Millns and Lloyd. But umpires are rather fortunate at the County Ground in that they are two of the few officials in this area to whom folk actually pay attention. There are large parts of Brighton and Hove where people pat legislation on its head and send it over to Eastbourne. Visit North Laine and you will find businesses that seem to regard official forms as entertainments to which only other people need pay any attention. One would not be surprised to find a Private Walker or two sidling in the alleyways: “Need any vaccines, guvnor? I can help you there.”
(And should Millns and Lloyd ever jack in umpiring they could go into business together selling perfumed unguents and other bathroom aromas. They already have the names for it. “Oh darling, could you be terribly sweet and pop into Millns and Lloyd for a rosewood and peony diffuser?” This would be a tremendous achievement for two lads from Clipstone and Accrington, where, one imagines, no-frills aerosols are produced by firms called something like Broadbottom and Snout.)
Such reveries occur to one on these afternoons at Hove, for this place retains its tender hold on the heart, even on days when there is nothing much going on. A year ago at least one of us would have paid twenty quid simply to sit here for half an hour during the perfect weather that taunted us during lockdown. And it is easy to be seduced by the County Ground, to be beguiled by its cricketing families, by the scent of the sea, by the view down Selborne Road and by the writers who have honoured this sacred space. Surely, one thinks, at odd moments, the romance is all too much, too heady…
And then one understands that resistance is utterly useless. In dusk’s first fading light a fox and vixen stroll over the outfield as though asserting some ancient right; perhaps they have their den in George Cox’s garden. And so, like the foxes, we go in search of supper and leave a great ground to its kindly ghosts on a spring evening.
Paul Edwards is a freelance cricket writer. He has written for the Times, ESPNcricinfo, Wisden, Southport Visiter and other publications
Recent Match Report – Glamorgan vs Yorkshire Group 3 2021
Only 13 overs possible on final day but Glamorgan batter impresses
Glamorgan 149 (Brook 3-13, Patterson 3-27) and 164 for 4 (Carlson 88*, Lloyd 40) drew with Yorkshire 230 (Root 99, Patterson 47*, Neser 5-39)
Persistent rain prevented a positive result in the LV=Insurance County Championship match between Glamorgan and Yorkshire in Cardiff with only 13 overs possible on the final day, but there was enough time for Kiran Carlson to continue his impressive season with his sixth fifty-plus score of this campaign.
The match was set up for an exciting finish at the close of day three with Glamorgan 27 runs in front with seven first innings wickets in hand. The weather meant that the players only made it into the middle at 4:15pm and Glamorgan successfully saw out a tricky session to secure the draw.
It was a frustrating experience in the hours before they started with the sun shining just long enough for some hope to emerge only for the rain to reappear to send the groundsmen back to their hut.
A brilliant 99 from England captain Joe Root on day three had given Yorkshire hope of pushing for a win but first rain and then Carlson prevented that from happening. Carlson finished the day on 88 not out with Glamorgan 164 for 4.
When play did get started Yorkshire were convinced they had David Lloyd caught in the slips in the first over but it was off his thigh pad rather than his bat. As it was, they had Lloyd without adding to his overnight score when he was trapped lbw by Ben Coad. That was the only wicket to fall before the players shook hands.
Carlson has been Glamorgan’s most consistent batsman in this Championship campaign, and his runs meant that any chances of a Yorkshire win evaporated. Such was Carlson’s brilliance, had Glamorgan had more time, they might even have set up a victory chance of their own. Carlson now has four fifties and two hundreds this season as his potential has begun to be realised.
The draw gives Yorkshire 12 points, sending them to the top of Group 3 of the Championship, five points ahead of Lancashire who did not play in this round of matches.
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