Confident Khawaja makes a mark
Usman Khawaja showed enough in his first Test match innings for Australia on Monday to suggest he may be around for quite a while, even if he is convinced he is only keeping a place warm for Ricky Ponting.
In an Ashes series where Australia's top order batsman have largely failed to deliver, the 24-year-old's blistering start to his Test career with 15 runs in his first eight balls had a packed house at the Sydney Cricket Ground purring.
The free-scoring lefthander has an average of 51.7 in first class cricket and, although an attempted top edged sweep saw him hole out for 37 on what turned out to be the last ball of the day, his cool temperament was clear for all to see.
Image: England's Paul Collingwood (right) takes a catch to dismiss Australia's Philip Hughes on Monday
'As soon as I was out there it just felt like the best thing ever'
"I had the whole of lunch to get ready to go out there," he said. "I literally didn't think about batting for the first 20 minutes, I just sort of lay there in the dressing room and tried to sleep.
"I got up just 10 minutes before I went out there and got myself ready.
"As soon as I was out there it just felt like the best thing ever. I was out there playing for Australia and the crowd was right behind me. It was awesome."
Khawaja was called up to the Test squad for the series against Pakistan in England earlier this year, and again when Michael Clarke was an injury worry before the first Ashes Test, but failed to get a game.
Image: Australia's Usman Khawaja talks to Shane Watson on Monday
'I'm trying to savour everything now'
It was only after Australia's chance of regaining the Ashes gone and captain Ponting was ruled out of this week's fifth Test with a fractured finger that he finally got his chance.
"Ecstatic" when he received his baggy green cap from former captain Mark Taylor, Khawaja said he was realistic about his chances of retaining his place when Ponting recovers fitness.
"I'd love to have a long Test career," Khawaja said. "I'd like to play cricket for Australia for as long as possible but I am taking Ricky Ponting's spot, and he's probably the greatest Australian batsman barring Don Bradman.
"So I'm just enjoying this Test match now and trying to savour everything now."
Image: England's Paul Collingwood (left) celebrates with Tim Bresnan after claiming the wicket of Australia's Shane Watson on Monday
'I still have to pinch myself sometimes'
Of course, Ponting has not been the force he once was in this series and Khawaja gave another reminder of how things have changed over the last four years when he recalled being 13th man at the corresponding Test in the 2006-07 Ashes series.
"It's pretty surreal, four years ago it was the retirement of (Justin) Langer, (Shane) Warne, (Glenn) McGrath and Australia won the Ashes five-zip," he recalled.
"It's quite a surreal feeling that four years later I'm playing in the Test match. I still have to pinch myself sometimes."
Image: Australia's captain Michael Clarke walks off the field after being dismissed by Tim Bresnan on Monday
Khawaja reckons being Pakistan-born is more significant
Much has been made of Khawaja being the first Muslim to play Test cricket for Australia but he thinks being Pakistan-born is more significant, if there is any significance at all to his background.
"I guess you can make something of anything, you can say Michael Beer is the first person who sticks his tongue out 24-7 to play for Australia," he joked.
Image: England's Graeme Swann (3rd from left) is congratulated by teammates after dismissing Usman Khawaja on Monday