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England vs Australia: Reinforcements Give Australia Muscle on Final Stretch

Adam Collins |July 11, 2019, 8:57 AM IST
England vs Australia: Reinforcements Give Australia Muscle on Final Stretch

Edgbaston: When Australia’s provisional ICC World Cup 2019 squad was announced in mid-April there were two other squads named as well that were to visit under the Australia ‘A’ banner.

Some joked that it was harder not to get a ticket to England than it was to be left home or that they were relocating Cricket Australia to London. The plan from former high performance tsar Pat Howard has Aaron Finch’s side laughing now.

It’s not difficult to build the case that the resources at Finch’s disposal now make his squad stronger than it was before injuries to Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja.

That may seem unfair on the two men who excelled more than anyone else while Steve Smith and David Warner were serving their sandpaper bans, but Peter Handscomb in particular looks every bit the perfect middle-overs addition at the perfect time.

Ahead of their semi-final against England coach Justin Langer confirmed that the Victorian will bat at four or five, meaning he will be able to continue his white-ball career after being the unluckiest man to miss out on the World Cup after a very handy few months ahead of the tournament.

It included a wonderful century at Mohali, a win that gave the side belief that they could defend this trophy after chasing down 360 in a series they ultimately came from behind to win 3-2.

"He's someone who rotates the strike really well and doesn't allow bowlers to bowl over after over at him, which is a real key ingredient of being a successful middle-order player," Finch said of his new inclusion.

(Image: Twitter) (Image: Twitter/@cricketworldcup)

"When he first started for Victoria, he might have been a slightly limited in terms of getting off strike. But his game now – he's a 360-degree player, very good against the quicks, extremely good against spin."

Steve Smith won’t be daunted in the slightest shuffling up to number three, a position he has played at plenty of times. There was also the question of whether a second change would be made, with suggestions in some outlets that Glenn Maxwell might be omitted from the XI for new inclusion Matthew Wade.

Maxwell has had a poor tour. While he has a brilliant strike rate of 163.14, the Victorian has only 155 runs at and hasn’t shown enough discipline against the bouncer. Wade had been in superb touch as an opener with the Australia A squad, thumping two tons in his past four hits and would add batting power. Finch, though, implied that Maxwell was unlikely to miss out, describing “the overall package” he brings to the side rather than just runs.

“If you look at his contribution in the field, he's up there with most runs saved in the field, his great run-out at Taunton to win that game for us against Pakistan in a really tight game, the overs that he's bowled, he hasn't got the wickets but he's bowled really tight, he's bowled some key overs for us that have allowed us to mix and match our bowlers through them middle overs,” the captain explained.

“As far as the runs, I'm not bothered about that at all because the way he's batting, the way that he's going about his innings, I think there's some real positives there, so runs are just around the corner and we know how damaging he is.”

Glenn Maxwell reacts after hitting the ball. (Twitter/ICC) (Image: Twitter/@ICC)

Marcus Stoinis has been passed fit, a dubious claim given he has had two side strains in the past couple of weeks. Finch suggested that overlooking Stoinis would leave the attack "quite thin,” something that has always been a risk in a squad with one all-rounder.

The support for his players just reflects the broader love in the camp. This is a warmer and fuzzier team than Australian sides have been in the past, as reflected by their barefoot wanderings around the grass of Edgbaston. Some fun was poked at this practice too, but Finch was happy to defend his coach’s approach.

“It was JL's idea. He is quite spiritual, as most people know. He's quite chilled out and zen. So it was a chance for the boys to walk around the ground barefoot. It just feels nice actually. We have done it a little bit. Maybe just there's a few more cameras here covering a World Cup semifinal than usual.”

Coming up against England doesn’t worry Finch at all, having already beaten them comfortably in the World Cup group stage and in a warm-up match at Southampton. “We take a lot of confidence into the game,” he said. “We know how they are going to play, they know how we are going to play.

"We have played each other a lot over the last couple of years so it will be whoever holds their nerves, whoever takes them half chances, whoever starts off the game really well in the first ten overs, whether it is with bat or ball.”

Source: Reuters (Image: Reuters)

Sure, no Australian men’s team has won at Edgbaston since 2001 and not in an ODI since 1993. And yes, the ground holds plenty of dreary memories in recent summers. There is no doubting that England love playing at the ground, having won their last ten fixtures there.

But in terms of history, Finch knows that they have a pretty handy fact of their own to boast. “Australia have had a very rich history in World Cups,” he said. “I mean, winning four of the last five, it's been a great achievement.”

It absolutely is. Finch and his happy Australians don’t see this as “redemption” for Cape Town or the saga that followed or anything like it. They want to be defined for something else: getting in the family business of winning World Cups.

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Cricket World Cup Points Table

Pos Team P W L T/NR PTS NRR
1
IND
9 7 1 1 15 +0.80
2
AUS
9 7 2 0 14 +0.86
3
ENG
9 6 3 0 12 +1.15
4
NZ
9 5 3 1 11 +0.17
5
PAK
9 5 3 1 11 -0.43
6
SL
9 3 4 2 8 -0.91
7
SA
9 3 5 1 7 -0.03
8
BAN
9 3 5 1 7 -0.41
9
WI
9 2 6 1 5 -0.22
10
AFG
9 0 9 0 0 -1.32

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 3631 113
2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3663 105
5 Australia 2640 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6420 123
2 India 6807 122
3 New Zealand 4763 113
4 Australia 5470 112
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 7365 283
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 Australia 5471 261
5 India 7273 260
see more