Usman Khawaja has announced his arrival in the seventh edition of the KFC Big Bash League with a stunning hand of 85 in Sydney Thunder’s clash against defending champions Perth Scorchers at Spotless Stadium.
The elegant left-hander feasted on a Scorchers attack bereft of Australia ODI squad members Andrew Tye, Jhye Richardson and Englishman David Willey, hammering eight boundaries and four sixes in his 51-ball knock.
The Thunder were 3-138 when Khawaja departed, caught by Michael Klinger at cover off the bowling of Ashton Agar, and ultimately posted 4-176 from their 20 overs.
Khawaja showcased his full array of shots – including scoops and reverse sweeps – and sheer power in his first match for the Thunder after being a part of Australia’s 4-0 Magellan Ashes triumph.
The 31-year-old’s spot in the Test line-up was questioned during the series and he attracted criticism from the likes of Shane Warne, but Khawaja hammered a sparkling 171 in the fifth Test at the SCG to finish on a high.
He carried that form into tonight’s fixture as he logged his fifth consecutive score of 50 or more at BBL level.
Khawaja boasts a remarkable BBL record, with 904 runs at 53.17 from 22 matches for the Thunder.
Of the top 20 runscorers in BBL history, Khawaja is one of only two players to play less than 30 matches – the other being Englishman Kevin Pietersen, who has represented the Melbourne Stars 29 times.
“He’s done it easily. He’s played shots all around the wicket to both spin and pace,” National selector Mark Waugh said on Channel 10.
Callum Ferguson (25), Ben Rohrer (22 not out) and Shane Watson (21) helped boost the Thunder’s total.
Tim Bresnan (2-38 from three over) was Perth’s leading wicket-taker, while Agar (1-31) and debutant Matthew Kelly (1-33) impressed.
The match is a must-win for the Thunder, who are in sixth position with a 2-4 record, while the Scorchers are sitting pretty in second spot with a 5-1 record.