Khawaja: I had a ball
Australia debutant Usman Khawaja spoke of his enjoyment after making an encouraging first impression in the final Ashes Test against England at the SCG.
Khawaja - who replaced injured captain Ricky Ponting as the home side’s number three - emphatically pulled his second ball to the boundary and went on to show a great deal more promise during an assured knock of 37.
The left-hander did lose his wicket in disappointing fashion as he top-edged an attempted sweep off Graeme Swann to Jonathan Trott at square-leg.
His dismissal proved to be the final action of a rain-interrupted opening day as Australia closed on 134 for four, but Khawaja was able to look back with pride on a heartening maiden innings.
“I was just going out there having fun,” said the New South Wales batsman, playing on his home ground. “I said to myself if I saw a ball I liked I would go after it and just bat like I have been in the last year in shield cricket.
“I had a ball out there. I just wanted to stay out there as long as I could. I didn’t want to come off.
“It was going well for most of it except the last ball of the day. It was just fun out there to be honest.”
On his dismissal, Khawaja added: “It definitely hurts. It started sprinkling, I didn’t realise it would be the last ball of the day. But I saw the ball, went after it and unfortunately I didn’t execute. So hopefully I can get among them second innings.”
Khawaja revealed batting had been far from easy on a pitch offering assistance to England’s bowlers, who once again demonstrated impressive discipline throughout the day.
“It’s not easy work out there,” he said. “It’s still not easy work so hopefully we’ll get a bit of a partnership tomorrow morning and do well.
“They’re a good attack; they’ve got a bit of mixture, a bit of everything so it should be a good test for us for the rest of the match.
“I think it’s always good to get runs on the board and batting first can be quite an important thing, especially at Sydney, so we’ll see how it goes.”
Khawaja experienced a memorable moment prior to the match as he was presented with his Test cap by former Australia skipper Mark Taylor.
He explained: “Mark just talked about his debut, the first time he went out. He just told me to enjoy it and to be honest I don’t remember half of it because I was just too excited and a bit nervous and everything was happening so it was good fun.
“It feels great. It’s been a dream ever since I was young so to get my baggy green and go out there and play in front of a massive crowd and play Test cricket is a dream come true.”
Khawaja’s parents were at the ground to witness his debut and displayed contrasting emotions throughout his innings.
While his father looked on calmly, Khawaja’s mother was a bundle of nervous energy and could be seen praying as her son prepared to face each delivery.
“I heard about it but didn’t see it,” the 24-year-old added. “I wasn’t watching it so I heard about it. She’s quite a jittery watcher of cricket.
My dad and my mum and brothers have been with me ever since I was born and they’ve been playing cricket with me and giving me their advice so it’s a big day.”
As Australia’s first Muslim Test player, Khawaja is well aware many will attach an extra significance to his debut.
But he deflected that with a cheeky reference to his new team-mate Michael Beer, also making his first Test appearance here.
“You can make something up of anything," he said.
“You could say Michael Beer is the first person who sticks his tongue out 24-seven to play for Australia.”