Usman Khawaja keeps an eye on the ball during a nets session.
Usman Khawaja keeps an eye on the ball during a nets session. DEAN LEWINS

Friendly fire has Khawaja primed for pressure Test

USMAN Khawaja is hoping that facing Australia's best bowlers in the nets will get him ready for a huge Test against the South African pace attack of Kagiso Rabada, Vernon Philander and Morne Morkel starting Thursday.

Khawaja said facing up to the likes of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins was perfect preparation as the two teams set to battle out the four-match Test series on what are expected to be bowler-friendly wickets.

"It's always testing times against our bowlers, especially when you get a few spicy nets,” he said.

"The practice and the nets sessions and the fielding and everything we've done, the preparation is really all we can control at this stage.

Josh Hazlewood lets rip in the nets.
Josh Hazlewood lets rip in the nets. DAVE HUNT

"It's been first-class and I'm sure the next two, three days are going to be exactly the same. But when the game comes around it's about being in the contest and doing the basics really well.

"It's a cliche used a lot but the team that does that the longest usually wins red-ball cricket.

"This first game is a big one for both teams.”

Khawaja is one of only six Australians to have a played a Test in South Africa, scoring a half-century as the Aussies won in Johannesburg in 2011, a clash best remembered for Pat Cummins' debut.

Usman Khawaja plays his shot.
Usman Khawaja plays his shot. DEAN LEWINS

"I've got great memories from South Africa, always have,” Khawaja said.

"And the cricket is always played in really good spirit, I reckon.

"South Africans play their cricket hard like we do back home in Australia but they also play really fair and they're all good blokes off the field, so it's always a fun time playing against them.”

Meanwhile, South African bowling great Morkel has revealed the series against Australia will be his last.

Morne Morkel will draw the curtain on his playing career.
Morne Morkel will draw the curtain on his playing career. Rick Rycroft

Morkel has taken 43 wickets in 13 Tests against Australia, at an average of 38.58.

"It was an extremely tough decision but I feel the time is right to start a new chapter,” said Morkel, who is married to former Australian television presenter Roz Kelly.

"I have a young family and a foreign wife, and the current demanding international schedule has put a lot of strain on us.

"I have to put them first and this decision will only benefit us going forward.”

Morkel's imminent retirement will be a blow for the Proteas, with the big fast bowler boasting an impressive international record.

Going into his 84th Test, the 33-year-old needs six victims to join Shaun Pollock (421), Dale Steyne (419), Makhaya Ntini (390) and Allan Donald (330) in the exclusive 300-club for the Proteas.

Morkel averages 28.08 with the ball in Test cricket and has taken seven five-wicket hauls.

He has claimed 529 international wickets across all three formats for South Africa.

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