Usman Khawaja finally feels he belongs in international cricket
By Greg Stutchbury
WELLINGTON (Reuters) - With four centuries in his last six test innings, Usman Khawaja finally feels like he belongs in international cricket after a rocky start to his career.
Khawaja scored 140 as Australia eased to 463-6 at the close of play on the second day of the first test against New Zealand on Saturday to give the visitors a massive 280-run lead.
The 29-year-old, who was recalled to the test side last November after more than two years in the international wilderness, has scored a century in each of the four matches that he has batted in since his return.
That form has netted him 644 runs at an average of 128.80 since his recall against New Zealand at the Gabba in Brisbane, where he scored his maiden test century of 174.
"In my head I always felt like I was good enough to play test cricket," he told reporters at the Basin Reserve on Saturday. "But it was not until I got that first test century I thought 'yeah there ya go' and that was the feeling I needed.
"As much as you know you're good enough it's not until you actually do it, it's not the same."
Initially selected as an injury replacement for Ricky Ponting against England in early 2011, Khawaja struggled to cement his place in the side.
He played six tests in 2011 and was then not required for more than 18 months before being recalled for the Ashes tour of England in 2013 where he made starts but failed to kick on and was dropped after the fourth test at Durham.
"I didn't set the world on fire and ...I always felt that when I first played for Australia I was playing for my spot a little bit," he said.
"I never really felt like I was in the team."
The retirements of Michael Clarke and Chris Rogers after last year's Ashes tour of England opened up two top order spots and Khawaja was recalled for the series against New Zealand, where his first test century helped his mindset.
"That relieved the pressure a lot, (though) even before I played that first game Boof (coach Darren Lehmann) told me to relax and that I'd get a fair crack at it so that helped too," Khawaja said.
"It's been nice to come back and see familiar faces. It's just been a relaxed atmosphere and it's what you want when you're playing at the highest level because there's enough pressure.
"I don't put too much pressure on myself any more. Every time I go out there now I'm just having fun."
(Editing by Amlan Chakrbaorty)