Usman Khawaja is under pressure to hold his spot.
Usman Khawaja is under pressure to hold his spot.

Haddin pep talk lifts under-fire Khawaja

AUSTRALIA is "pretty happy" with Usman Khawaja's stop-start World Cup that appears to have drained all the pre-tournament fluency he built up as the planet's most prolific run-scorer in 2019.

Khawaja's World Cup average of 19.6 runs does not rank in the tournament's top 50 and he has entered at No.3, 4 and 6 since being shafted as captain Aaron Finch's opening partner.

Khawaja has failed to post a half-century after five games and is suddenly vulnerable in the team, given a batsman is set to make way for an allrounder and coach Justin Langer rates the versatile Shaun Marsh as a "very, very explosive player".

"He's (Khawaja) playing a different role. It's not that he's not having success, he's been in a role where he's had limited opportunities," assistant coach Brad Haddin said.

"Before he could go out and set the pace of the innings (as an opener) and now the innings is dictating the role he needs to play.

"He's been OK with it - he's a class act. He's had little cameos throughout, he would've liked to go on bigger (against Sri Lanka on Saturday) and get a big score.

"We're pretty happy with where he's at - he's just got to bat the situation, and No.3 is not uncommon to him.

"He's played most of his career at No.3 in state cricket and Test cricket."

Usman Khawaja’s brainfade left Ponting dumbfounded.
Usman Khawaja’s brainfade left Ponting dumbfounded.

Glenn Maxwell's strike-rate of 188.5 ranks No.1 at the World Cup but aside from him Australia has lacked firepower in the middle order.

That is largely because Khawaja and Marsh have been played out of position, sent in for finishing roles when they are far better suited to the top of the order.

Khawaja has opened the batting in 20 ODIs, averaging a healthy 53.6. But after 15 innings coming in at No.3 or lower he is averaging just 22.6 runs.

"One of the luxuries at the moment is we're still winning, and we still haven't found the perfect rhythm for our game, which is a dangerous sign moving forward," Haddin said.

"One of the strengths might be our adaptability in the tournament. All of our players are pretty hungry to get a game and understand that we might call on them anytime."

The Aussies are 4-1 and can effectively lock away a semi-final berth with victory against a revitalised Bangladesh on Thursday.

Shaun Marsh has spent more time on the sidelines than he has playing in the World Cup. Picture: Getty
Shaun Marsh has spent more time on the sidelines than he has playing in the World Cup. Picture: Getty

"What we're doing at the moment is some really good signs in tournament play," the 2015 World Cup winner said.

"It's important we get to these bigger games and see where we really are leading into the back-end of the tournament.

"We're making sure our guys understand what they have to do and play eyes-up cricket - understand what's in front of them.

"We've got different gears the top of the order can go in, David's (Waner) shown that through the tournament, and then Finchy definitely showed (with his 153)."

Haddin hailed Finch a "brave captain" who did not second-guess his gut instincts.