Belfast Telegraph

The Ashes: Khawaja relaxed after his historic debut for Aussies

IN 1939, Hattie McDaniel became the first black actor to win an Oscar. It was a seminal moment in the history of the United States — she received the statuette for her best supporting role in Gone With The Wind — for such moments can change cultures and alter outlooks.

So it might be for Usman Khawaja, who yesterday won his maiden Test cap, the legendary baggy green, the first Muslim to play for Australia. He scored 37 crisp runs, getting off the mark first ball with a clipped two and then pulling four nonchalantly offthe second. Khawaja looked the part every bit as much as McDaniel as Mammy the maid answering back Scarlett O'Hara.

Not that Khawaja was dwelling much on his role as a pioneer. “I think probably being the first Pakistani born player to play for Australia matters a bit more than my religious beliefs because they're personal to me,” he said.

“It's probably more significant. But I guess you can make something up about anything. You can say that Michael Beer is the first person who sticks his tongue out 24-7 to play for Australia.”

At which the stout party collapsed and Khawaja, a fair dinkum Aussie who bristles with mischief and confidence, had made his point. Beer, like him, was awarded his first cap yesterday. Khawaja was given a hearty reception on his way to the wicket immediately after lunch, Philip Hughes having fallen in the last over before it.

That must have settled him and the leg side half volley with which he was greeted, followed by a short ball, must have settled him some more. The second stroke put some observers in mind of another languid left-hander, David Gower, who despatched his first ball in Test matches for four 33 years ago.

Nor had he spent the lunch interval fretting about what was to come, with England's bowlers on the prowl. He had, he said, been at his emotional peak when he was awarded his baggy green by the former Australia captain, Mark Taylor, before play.

“I literally barely thought about batting for the first 20 minutes of lunch,” he said. “I just laid down in the changing room and fell asleep. Then I got up, got myself ready again. As soon as I got out there it just felt like the best thing ever.”

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