Usman Khawaja’s brilliant 94 propelled Brisbane Heat to victory over his old side, aided by a new shot he had been practicing for years. While the reverse sweep has been a key feature in his Test career revival, Usman Khawaja reached even further into his bag of tricks during an electrifying knock that guided Brisbane Heat into the KFC BBL|12 Knockout. Usman Khawaja startled his former home fans in Western Sydney for the first time since moving teams during the off-season with a sequence of audacious reverse paddle scoops that the Thunder attack had no answer for.
Usman Khawaja Classy finals knock
It’s a shot often used by white-ball hero Glenn Maxwell, which inspired Josh Inglis of the Perth Scorchers to use it in BBL|12, with the Test opener being the latest to add the remarkable stroke to his arsenal. And he did it with great success, sweeping Thunder rival Chris Green over a third to the boundary, as well as Ben Cutting twice and leg-spinner Usman Qadir for two runs in his match-defining 94 from 55 balls on Friday night at Sydney Showground Stadium.
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While it was the first time he used it in a T20 inning, Usman Khawaja acknowledged afterward that it was a shot he’d been practicing for years. “Nothing occurs by chance or luck; I’ve been practicing it for the past couple of years,” he stated after his team defeated the Thunder in the Eliminator by an eight-run Duckworth-Lewis-Stern score. “It’s fantastic when you acquire the confidence to play it in a game and it comes off; there’s nothing more exciting than playing a reverse paddle and having it come off; it’s a really pleasant stroke to play.”
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It was the 36-year-first old’s T20 score beyond 30 since joining the Heat following the Sydney Test, and his biggest T20 score since his century for Islamabad United in the 2021 Pakistan Super League, which was a big reason he pulled out the shot for the first time last night. “To be honest, I haven’t batted long enough to be able to play a lot of strokes,” Usman Khawaja said. “I have had a lot of excellent starts, a lot of twenty, fifteens, but I just haven’t been able to kick on which has been disappointing.
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“It may be hard to play certain shots if you don’t bat for long enough, but I had the chance to play them today. “It certainly requires confidence (to play it), I attempted a lap my first game against (Jason) Behrendorff and I was whacked square in the head. “You have to put your body on the line, but I enjoy scoring runs, so the adrenaline typically takes care of it. The Heat will now play the Melbourne Renegades at Marvel Stadium on Sunday in the Knockout, with Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne (73 off 48), and Matthew Renshaw (24 off 8) approved by Cricket Australia to play.
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Usman Khawaja, on the other hand, said he was still debating whether to fly to Melbourne given the short turnaround before the four-Test Border-Gavaskar series in India. “To be honest, I haven’t thought that far ahead,” he said. “Obviously, I’ll be gone for six and a half weeks (and) my family will be visiting for the Allan Border Medal (in Sydney) on the same day” (Monday). “There’s a lot going on right now. I really wanted to win this game so I could cross that bridge tonight and decide what I wanted to do.”
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Brisbane will be hopeful he can participate, since Usman Khawaja is the all-time leading run-scorer in BBL finals, with 411 runs at an average of 58.71. Mitchell Swepson of the Heat will miss the match in Melbourne because he is in Sydney for a three-day spin session ahead of the Qantas Tour.
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