Usman Khawaja in action for Queensland against Victoria on Thursday.
Usman Khawaja in action for Queensland against Victoria on Thursday.

Spin undoes Khawaja on green Gabba deck

USMAN Khawaja survived nearly two hours on a bright green Gabba wicket, before ultimately falling victim to his old enemy spin.

The Australian No.3 made a bold call to bat first in Queensland's season-opening Sheffield Shield clash with Victoria in Brisbane, willing to throw himself and Test opener Matt Renshaw in the deep end.

Ultimately the decision backfired for the Bulls, who were 9-156 before rain struck (after a two hour delay play resumed and Queensland were bowled out for 166), but Australian selectors may be grateful for the tough period Khawaja and Renshaw were forced to endure out in the middle.

With the ball nipping about dangerously for the Bushranger quicks, Renshaw made just 17 but still grinded out more than an hour at the crease, while Khawaja looked as though he was finding his groove before falling to the leg-spin of Fawad Ahmed for 40.

Victorian veteran Peter Siddle, who holds out hope of being on Ashes standby this summer, went wicketless from 15 overs, although that included five maidens and an economy rate of just 2 an over.

Scott Boland (four wickets) and Chris Tremain (three) did the bulk of the damage, but Ahmed gave a timely reminder of his skills, by getting key man Khawaja.

Australian coach Darren Lehmann has already gaurunteed Khawaja a return to the No.3 spot for the first Test, even though he was benched for the entire tour of India and then dropped after just one Test in Bangladesh this year due to concerns about his ability to face spin.

Khawaja felt the decision to chop and change him contributed to a feeling of instability in the team, but despite the limited opportunities he's been given overseas, it would seem the left-hander does still have significant work to do against the turning ball.

Slow bowler Moeen Ali is a key part of England's attack and skipper Joe Root will be keeping a close eye on the opening rounds of the Shield.

Meanwhile, rain delayed the start in Western Australia's clash with Tasmania, before the Warriors were sent in.

Veteran run-scoring machine Michael Klinger was dropped to give WA's legion of Test hopefuls a shot, in a selection decision somewhat resembling the brutal treatment of Ed Cowan at NSW earlier in the week.

Shaun and Mitchell Marsh, Hilton Cartwright and Marcus Stoinis are all contenders for the vacant No.6 spot for the first Ashes Test.

Steve Smith, who will captain NSW in Friday's clash against South Australia in Adelaide said performances around the country were crucial - including for himself.

"I'll be watching. I'm watching everyone," he said.

"It's important for me to hopefully spend some time in the middle and get some runs as well.

"I didn't feel as good as I could have over in India and Bangladesh.

"Obviously it's a big summer with the Ashes and I'd like to be getting some runs early in the season and spending some time in the middle myself."



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