Jofra Archer celebrates taking the wicket of Marcus Harris. Picture: Getty Images
Jofra Archer celebrates taking the wicket of Marcus Harris. Picture: Getty Images

‘Not at our best’: Khawaja, Harris in firing line

USMAN Khawaja and Marcus Harris appear in a two-way battle to avoid the Ashes axe as Australia turn to a practice match for answers to their batting woes.

The Steve Smith bus is back on the road after he was ruled out of the epic third Test with concussion, and he is all but certain to be back for a tour game in Derby and then the fourth Test at Old Trafford.

But as big a boost as it will be for the shell shocked Australia to get back their Bradman-esque batsman, England are also hopeful of welcoming back their own ace up the sleeve.

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Bowling great James Anderson is also putting his hand up for a return from a calf injury and, alongside Jofra Archer and Stuart Broad, would only elevate the challenge for Australia's uncertain batting line-up.

Khawaja is under pressure to keep his spot at No. 3, but could also end-up opening if selectors opt to dump Harris after one Test.

Under both scenarios Marnus Labuschagne would move to first drop and Smith back at No. 4.

"There's actually going to be some big questions. One thing I do know is we're not batting well enough at the ­moment," Langer said.

Australia's Usman Khawaja after loosing his wicket on the first day of the third Test.
Australia's Usman Khawaja after loosing his wicket on the first day of the third Test.

"I said at the start of the ­series that the team that bats best will win the Ashes. We're certainly not at our best with our batting at the moment.

"We've got some real questions to ask for the practice game then the fourth Test match.

"We've also got to work out, after a long summer, we're going to have to rest some players, just to give them a mental freshen up," he said.

"The other thing, we've got two back-to-back Test matches to win or lose the Ashes."

Travis Head may not be completely safe either, but it would appear Harris and Khawaja are most in the gun.

Despite England coming under fire for their 67 all out in Leeds, Langer said Australia also needed to be better, citing poor batting as an ongoing issue that won't simply be solved by the return of Steve Smith.

Australia was rolled for 179 in tough conditions on day one at Headingley, but then for 249 in the second innings when conditions were more in their favour, a total which in the end proved costly.

The near-miss at Leeds was as much down to Australia's own issues as the once-in-a-lifetime innings from Ben Stokes.

"You'll never see a better innings than that," Langer said.

"We're all feeling it. My gosh, you have no idea how much that hurts, losing today, no idea"

"We're feeling it but leaders, whether you're the captain, coach or senior player, you have to get up. You got to.

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"We'll be disappointed for a day or night. We probably won't talk much for a day or a night or so. Then when we get back into. We'll review it like we do every game. We'll review it together and make sure we get it better next time.

"We fought so hard. We bowled them out for 67. It was brilliant. We'll win a lot more games than we lose if we bat well - and with the bowling depth we got."