In-form batsman Usman Khawaja was yesterday brought into Australia’s squad for the final Twenty20 match against India, with Shane Watson to captain in place of injured skipper Aaron Finch. Finch injured his left hamstring in Friday night’s match which India won by 27 runs, giving the tourists an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the three-game series. Cricket Australia said Finch will miss the third and final Twenty20 in Sydney today but the full extent of his injury was not yet known.
“With Finch sidelined, Usman Khawaja has stepped into the squad for Sunday’s game and has also been drafted in to the one-day international squad for the tour of New Zealand,” Cricket Australia said.
Khawaja’s omission from the one-day squad to play across the Tasman had earlier caused controversy given the batsman’s red-hot form. Acting head coach Michael Di Venuto said Khawaja, who hit 70 off 40 deliveries in the recent final of the domestic T20 competition, “thoroughly deserves” his opportunity in the short form of the game.
He admitted that India had been too strong for Australia in the Twenty20s, saying the home side had been “getting completely outplayed in all three departments... bat, ball and the field”.
India won the first match of the series at Adelaide Oval on Tuesday by 37 runs when Australia were unable to overhaul the 188 total. Di Venuto said the hosts had started well in their run chase in the second game on Friday, with Finch scoring 74 off 48 balls before he was run out.
But it was not enough to get Australia a win after India made 184 for three and then followed up with a strong spin attack. He said Finch was still waiting on the results of scans.
“Hopefully for Finchy it’s not too bad and we can see him recover and be fully fit for the World Cup,” said Di Venuto, who has stepped into Darren Lehmann’s role while the head coach recovers from deep vein thrombosis. Finch said the injury was “hugely frustrating”. “I am hoping it will not keep me out for a lengthy period of time, especially with an ICC World Twenty20 on the horizon, but I will be guided by the specialists,” he said.
All-rounder Shane Watson will lead Australia in the third and final Twenty20 international against India today in the absence of Finch.
“It is an honour to be asked to lead the side on Sunday, although the circumstances are far from ideal,” Watson said in a Cricket Australia statement. “We may have lost the series but there is a great deal to play for with the ICC World Twenty20 coming up and you can be sure we will be determined to do well in Sydney.”
The 34-year-old Watson has previously captained Australia in a lone test and nine ODIs and is the country’s second most experienced player in T20 internationals behind opening batsman David Warner. For India, a win would be a perfect way for them to depart Australia after the disappointment of losing the ODI series 1-4. After the win in Melbourne, captain MS Dhoni played down the possibility that India might use the dead rubber in Sydney to experiment with their side ahead of a World T20, but Australia have no choice but to make changes.
In a case of divided loyalties, Australia have sent several players to New Zealand to prepare for the ODI series that starts there on Wednesday.
That means none of Steven Smith, David Warner, John Hastings, Kane Richardson or Matthew Wade will be available for today’s T20. Wicketkeeper Cameron Bancroft is in to replace Wade, who has gone to New Zealand. The absence of Hastings and Richardson means Shaun Tait may return.
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