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Australia Front up For Nine Day, Four Game Sprint

According to Justin Langer, this stretch - where Australia are scheduled to play four games in nine days – has been on their minds for six to nine months. He identified preparing for and playing so much cricket in such a short space of time as the toughest part of their World Cup.

Adam Collins |June 12, 2019, 8:59 PM IST
Australia Front up For Nine Day, Four Game Sprint

Taunton: According to Justin Langer, this stretch - where Australia are scheduled to play four games in nine days – has been on their minds for six to nine months. He identified preparing for and playing so much cricket in such a short space of time as the toughest part of their World Cup.

The degree of difficulty was enhanced by the fact that the Australia ‘A’ squad, who serve as a handy set of understudies in the event of injury, are still to arrive. With this in mind, sure enough, Marcus Stoinis - the bustling all-rounder without a like-for-like replacement in their 15 - has gone down with a side strain on the cusp of this fixture against Pakistan on Wednesday.

That has to sting. And as Aaron Finch explained, it means they cannot be sure of what they will do with their final XI, both options at their disposal serving to unbalance his side as it was conceived. Mitch Marsh, a member of that Australia ‘A’ touring party, is being rushed to England as cover for Stoinis in the event that he doesn’t respond well enough to treatment and has to be replaced, but he won’t arrive quickly enough to prevent a tough selection-table judgment call.

“That's also something we've got to juggle with,” acknowledged the captain. “We've got to find a few more overs now. Whether we play the extra batter or extra bowler, we'll wait and see, and especially tomorrow with the conditions it’s just about trying to weigh up whether we go with the extra batter… or we go with an extra bowler and play Alex Carey at six.”

Either way, the role of Nathan Coulter-Nile is set to be dramatically enhanced. If Langer and Finch go with Shaun Marsh to bolster the batting, there is no provision for the Western Australian – the third seamer – to do anything other than bowl his complement of overs. If a specialist bowler comes into the team instead, then Coulter-Nile will walk in to bat at number seven. Notwithstanding his match-winning 92 last Wednesday, asking him to do that job was not part of the plan.

In the aftermath of Australia’s loss to India on Sunday - the 36-run margin flattering the defending champions – a lot was made by Langer of his side’s flexibility - contrary to popular belief. The strong likelihood of a rain-reduced game at best on Wednesday, coupled with the absence of Stoinis, will bring that into even sharper focus. Finch reinforced this in his own comments, believing that rain could play a “huge part” in the game. “That's one thing we've been really, really clear with,” he said. “We want everyone to be adaptable and be ready to go at any situation.”

Finch also observed that the pitch is fresh, and fresh it is. When the covers were taken off at the County Ground on Tuesday, when rain briefly subsided, it revealed a green and racy surface. In turn, Sarfaraz Ahmed stated the obvious when reflecting on his own options if the coin comes down his way, saying that he will “definitely want to bowl first” in that scenario.

It is a ground that Langer knows well, spending three and a half years on the books at Somerset in the latter stages of his professional career. With short, straight boundaries, the logical comparison is to Bristol, where Australia accounted for Afghanistan in their tournament opener the Saturday before last. That should be well received by David Warner, who has had the spotlight on him for a reason that it never has before across his decade-long international career: scoring too slowly.

Image: @cricketcomau Image: @cricketcomau

“He's been working a bit (with Langer and Ricky Ponting) to just make sure he's in the right mind frame,” Finch said of his opening partner, adding that it is “not a team plan” for the left-hander to open the innings slowly. “When the field is in, you do generally face a high percentage of top bowlers. And I suppose when the field went out he still hit them fielders, which didn't give the innings a huge amount of flow, which he was disappointed about.”

Warner is one of many first-choice inclusions to the Australian side since they defeated Pakistan five-nil in a March ODI series, Pakistan able to say likewise. This really couldn't be any different to Dubai and Abu Dhabi. Even so, Finch is right to say that it affords them a degree of confidence but knows it doesn't make this any less of a danger game. “We've seen consistently, especially ICC tournaments, that they win a lot of games and they get themselves in a position to win the tournament,” he said. “So regardless of what kind of form Pakistan go in with, they're always incredibly dangerous.”

For Sarfaraz's part, he doesn’t anticipate the likely heavily pro-Pakistan crowd to get stuck into Warner and Steve Smith as other audiences have so far. Asked if he might make a similar intervention to that of Virat Kohli when he instructed Indian fans to cheer, not boo the former captain at The Oval, Pakistan’s leader said he wouldn’t need to: “Pakistani people are (not) doing (it) like that. Pakistani people love cricket, they love to support and they love the players.”

After two sad and sodden days, if the World Cup is able to resume in Taunton, this has all the necessary elements to be one of the most tasty fixtures of the first fortnight: a discombobulated Australia needing to bounce back against a Pakistan side who in their most recent start gazumped the tournament hosts – on a green top. Cross everything that they get on.

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Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 5046 120
2 New Zealand 3241 112
3 South Africa 3177 102
4 England 4593 102
5 Australia 3672 102
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 6745 125
2 India 7071 122
3 New Zealand 4837 112
4 Australia 5543 111
5 South Africa 5193 110
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 8366 270
2 Australia 6986 269
3 England 5568 265
4 South Africa 4720 262
5 India 10071 258
see more