Khawaja lauds Guptill impact
Usman Khawaja, Derbyshire’s match-winner and Division Two title-clincher, paid tribute to his predecessor as overseas player Martin Guptill following the triumph.
New Zealand’s Guptill made eight LV= County Championship appearances this year, scoring 594 runs at an average of 49.5. Australia’s Khawaja took over and made 415 at 41.5 in seven games.
Although they are trans-Tasman rivals, Khawaja’s respect for Guptill and his other team-mates was clear as he spoke exclusively to ecb.co.uk.
“It’s a great feeling actually to be part of this,” he said.
“To win a championship is just surreal. I wasn’t expecting it when I signed up at Derby at the start of last year.
“Credit to the boys, credit to Martin Guptill, who came for the first half of the season and did great.
“He set up a lot of games for us, did all the hard work and I’ve just come in, tried to do as much as I can.”
Khawaja, who compiled a composed 71 to help Derbyshire to a first-innings lead of three, came to the crease as the County Ground hosts lost their opening batsmen on the brink of lunch on Friday.
However, from 45 for two in pursuit of 196, he dominated a stand of 67 with Wes Dusrton and eased to 72 not out as Ross Whitely hastened victory inside 42 overs with a 30-ball 38.
“When I went out there I was still pretty anxious because I really wanted to win,” Khawaja admitted.
“I knew it would be a really bland feeling if we got promotion and were leading (Division Two) the whole way through the season and didn’t win. So we were quite intense and there were a few nerves flying round at lunchtime.
“It was good to get a partnership with Durston there. That settles down the nerves a little bit. Then Whiteley came in at the end and batted beautifully.”
Having ended his second season at Derbyshire on a high, the 25-year-old did not rule out a return next year – albeit in an Ashes summer.
“I always take it one season at a time,” he said. “I’ve got to go back home. It’s our summer in Australia. I’ll concentrate on that and see how I pull up at the end of the season.
“If Derby want me back and I’m keen to come back, then I’m sure I will.”
What is for certain is the Division Two title is Khawaja’s first senior silverware. The closest he had previously come was as runner-up in the 2010/11 Sheffield Shield final with New South Wales.
“I’ve been in one Shield final back home with New South Wales,” he added. “Unfortunately we lost that one so this is my first major victory and it couldn’t have come at a better time.”