Usman Khawaja batting in the practice match in Dubai, with a certain 'fielder' close by.
Usman Khawaja batting in the practice match in Dubai, with a certain 'fielder' close by. Terry Mallinder

Khawaja 'caught out' by fill-in fieldsman

CRICKET: Usman Khawaja found a novel way to lose his wicket in Australia's intra-squad practice match in Dubai - bowled Swepson, caught Chair.

The humble plastic chair was ruled to have snared a fine low catch after Khawaja, who had carved out a score of 39 with six fours, popped up a chance following an inside edge onto his front pad.

The chair has been used by Australia as the short-leg fieldsman throughout the practice match but this is its first significant contribution.

Others to impress were all-rounder candidates Ashton Agar and Mitch Marsh, who both hit half-centuries in the warm Dubai conditions to press their cases for spots in the first Test against India in Pune on February 23.

Agar, who claimed four wickets bowling on day one of the practice match, hit 11 fours and a six to post an unbeaten 74 before retiring out.

Marsh hit 54 a day after older brother Shaun (62) had notched a half-century of his own.

Agar wore one short ball to the ribs from paceman Mitchell Starc, who blew some cobwebs out in a series of short spells.

Starc was comfortably Australia's best-performed bowler on last year's dismal tour of Sri Lanka, and will again be asked to shoulder much of the burden in the four-Test series.

"It's been a while since I've been over (to India) to play red-ball cricket - four years," Starc said after play.

"It's a different ball so there's different challenges there to try and get it reversing and see if it swings when it's brand new.

"There's some little changes in terms of batting plans, but a lot of similarities (to Sri Lanka) in the fact that it's going to turn a lot against us."

Starc and fellow quick Josh Hazlewood are viewed as the keys to Australia halting India's seemingly unstoppable run-scoring, but there has been some debate about how best to use the star pace duo.

But in hot and humid conditions, will short spells be the best way to get the most out of Australia's quicks?

Starc said that decision lies firmly with captain Steve Smith.

"It was probably a bit different to how we're used back home and it will depend on how the ball is reacting and whether it's swinging conventionally or reverse," he said.

"I'm sure there'll be times when we're called on to bowl a few extra overs in a spell but probably a lot of short spells as well."

News Corp Australia

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