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Derbyshire, England, Interviews

Usman Khawaja expects tight NatWest series

Australia batsman Usman Khawaja still believes the NatWest Series will be a close affair despite England taking a 1-0 lead following their 15-run victory at Lord’s.

The 25-year-old has played six Test matches for the Baggy Greens, making his debut in the 2011/12 Ashes series down under against England.

Khawaja has never represented his country in 50-over cricket, but has played with and against most of Australia’s ODI squad and insists, despite it being in English conditions, the series will be a tightly-fought contest in which the tourists can come out on top.

“I think it will be a very good series,” Khawaja said. “Australia are playing some really good one-day cricket. We have got a really good balanced line-up and England obviously played really well against West Indies too so it is really hard to call.

“We have got a really good pace bowling attack and we have got a really good batting side, people are in good shape and are well rested.

“But England have had the playing time against West Indies and we are in England so it will just depend on how well the Aussies can develop to the conditions and if they can do that they have a chance of winning the series.”

Khawaja has been part of the Derbyshire dressing room since the start of the FLt20 competition, but with only one win in their first six games, the Queensland batsman believes it will be difficult for the Falcons to qualify for the knock-out stages.

“It is going to be pretty tough now to qualify for the quarter-finals,” Khawaja said. “But we have still got a lot to play for in these four games and if we can get four wins it will be great momentum for us as we get back into the Championship.

“I think everyone is really excited about the Championship. There is about seven or eight games left and they have played exceptionally so far with a couple of superb individual efforts.

“So hopefully the next few games we can get back on track for the Championship gain a few wins and pull further ahead and make it easier for ourselves. But we are taking it one game at a time and we are not getting too far ahead of ourselves.”

Khawaja is Derbyshire’s overseas replacement for New Zealand batsman Martin Guptill who had a startling start to the 2012 domestic season, compiling three centuries and scoring over 500 runs in the four-day game.

But Khawaja insists that this hasn’t put more pressure on his young shoulders as he believes it has given him the extra incentive to perform for a winning cause.

“He (Guptill) performed beautifully but I have come here with high expectations too and I want to perform and score loads of runs, there is nothing else I want to do,” Khawaja added.

“I am prepared to work hard, prepared to give as much as I can and hopefully contribute and help Derbyshire gain promotion in the Championship.

“I have come here with a purpose to perform and it has worked out that Derbyshire are in a good position in the Championship and this has given me the extra incentive to do well, there would be nothing better than to leave here and enter my summer in Australia after securing a promotion with Derbyshire.”

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About Chris Airey

Sports Journalist at Staffordshire Uni - writes for DerbyshireCCC, TelfordUtd Programme and AllOutCricket - tries to play a bit of cricket too!!

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