Khawaja fitness doubt after BBL pullout

Usman Khawaja (Gallo)
Usman Khawaja (Gallo)

Sydney - Australia batsman Usman Khawaja has pulled out of a Twenty20 game this week and faces a fitness check before the Boxing Day Test against the West Indies, Cricket Australia said on Monday.

Khawaja, 28, was due to return from a hamstring injury in Thursday's opening Big Bash League match for the Sydney Thunder after being included in the 13-man Australia Test squad for Melbourne.

But Cricket Australia medical staff have ruled him out of the clash against the Sydney Sixers.

Khawaja will need to prove his fitness before Sunday's Big Bash game with the Melbourne Stars, which would be his only remaining fixture before the Boxing Day Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

 If he fails that test, selectors will be spared the onerous decision of trying to put him back into the Australian team at the expense of either Joe Burns or Shaun Marsh.

Khawaja has not played since injuring his hamstring in the second Test against New Zealand in Perth last month, and Australian coach Darren Lehmann said he was not willing to risk him without a warm-up game.

"We certainly need him playing and with the hamstring we don't want him playing Test match cricket if he's not fully fit," Lehmann said after Australia's innings first Test defeat of the West Indies in Hobart.

"He will have to be sharp in those Big Bash League T20 games he's playing and get through those - then we'll make a decision from there."

Khawaja scored 174 and 121 batting at three against New Zealand before he was injured, while his replacement, Marsh, made a strong case for his retention with his highest Test score of 182 in Hobart.

Australia captain Steve Smith is also have treatment for knee and hip injuries in the lead-up to the Melbourne Test, and has been ruled out of the Sixers' opening two Big Bash matches.

He said he expected to be fit for the Boxing Day clash.

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