Impressive: Usman Khawaja on his way to a century in the Cup final on Sunday. Photo: Getty Images
Forgotten batsman Usman Khawaja upstaged David Warner and signalled to national selectors he deserves to remain in the reckoning for an Ashes berth with a chanceless century on Sunday.
The elegant left-hander’s match-winning ton, which sunk NSW’s quest for its first domestic one-day title in eight years, was a timely reminder George Bailey is not over the line in the race for the No.6 Test berth.
Khawaja’s 104 off 100 balls was the difference between Queensland and the Blues, with the target of 318 run down with five balls to spare.
Whereas NSW had three players who could not turn their half-centuries into tons, Khawaja was the only player to reach three figures. It took his series tally to 426 runs at 71 and an impressive strike rate of 86 – not bad for a batsman whose scoring rate and ability to slide into different gears has been questioned in the past.
The tournament provided a much-needed lift for Khawaja, who lost his place in the Test line-up during the Ashes series in England. He is now back in the hunt with Bailey and Shaun Marsh for a call-up for the first Test in four weeks though he needs more runs in the Sheffield Shield to keep knocking on the door.
”I’m trying not to think too far ahead. I’m happy where I’m playing right now in Queensland and I’m happy trying to score as many runs as I can trying to get victories up for our team. The rest will work itself out and whatever happens happens,” said Khawaja, who also snared a red-hot one-hander at point to remove Steve Smith.
The Bulls had a simple game plan of playing cautiously against Nathan Lyon, who with 1-29 from 10 overs was the best bowler in the game, and attacking the rest.
Khawaja scored 13 off 23 balls against Australia’s incumbent tweaker but punished the other Blues bowlers.
”He [Lyon] bowled really well and we knew if we limited damage against him we could still win this game quite easily,” Khawaja said.
Nic Maddinson, Smith and Peter Nevill all made fine half-centuries but it was not until Ben Rohrer chipped in with some lusty blows in the final over that the Blues pushed beyond 300, which is considered below par at North Sydney.
Warner, with 14, had his colours lowered and was dealt another blow after missing out on best player in the tournament to Cameron White.
The game-by-game voting system favoured White, who made five half-centuries, over Warner, whose runs came largely in three matches.
The Bulls’ run chase was built upon a 165-run opening stand and finished off with three consecutive sixes by Ben Cutting and Chris Lynn.
”I don’t think we fielded very well at all today,” Smith said. ”Probably one of the worst we fielded all tournament – that was disappointing.”