Australia bared their hearts – and feet – as they began preparations for their World Cup semi-final against England with an extended huddle on the outfield at Edgbaston.
The squad began Monday’s training session by discarding their socks and trainers, taking a walk across the playing surface and then sat for more than half-an-hour in the same state as they took it in turns to talk to each other about their emotions ahead of the knockouts.
The move seems to come directly from the playbook of head coach Justin Langer, who last year described himself as “a bit of a hippy”, who liked to spend a month a year growing out his beard and walking barefoot.
Peter Handscomb has yet to play in the tournament, having joined up as a replacement for Shaun Marsh, but is in line to face England in place of another injury victim, Usman Khawaja.
Asked for his take on the walkabout and ‘bonding circle’, Handscomb said: “It’s just a moment to get a feel for the ground, literally.
“You do that lap and you can see all the different views from the ground and where you might be fielding and it gives you an opportunity to take it all in before it all starts on Thursday.
“(We had) an open and honest conversation and it was great that some of the guys poured their heart out there about what it meant to get to the semi-final.
“There were some really good stories: what it meant for them and their first memories of cricket growing up. It was really nice to see what playing in the finals means to this group.”
Handscomb’s chance to be part of that group would not have come around but for the misfortune of others but he still feels for those who have been laid low.
Marsh is the only player who has been formally ruled out so far but the paperwork has been lodged for Matthew Wade to take the hamstrung Khawaja’s slot, while Mitch Marsh is travelling as cover for Marcus Stoinis.
“It’s actually living the dream to be here now,” he said.
“It’s really sad for those guys who have gone down, especially so late in the tournament.
“For those two guys who have done so much to go down was pretty gut -wrenching but they’re very excited for us and that’s the camaraderie in this group.
“Both Mitch and I have played recently in the one-dayers so we’ve been in and amongst the boys, and Wadey has been in and out for years. We’re all ready to go.”
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After weeks of clear weather, the infamous English weather is back to cause problems at the 2019 World Cup.
Just three games remain to decide the 50-over world champions and all eyes are on the weather. The first semi-final between India and New Zealand is in Manchester on Tuesday with a moderate threat of rain.
The Met Office’s forecast for Manchester on Tuesday is “mostly cloudy and overcast with light rain possible throughout the day”.
If that doesn’t fill you with confidence, the forecast for the second semi-final between England and Australia in Birmingham on Thursday certainly won’t. The forecast is for scattered thunderstorms and rain almost throughout Thursday.
However, there is a provision for reserve days for the knockout matches, which wasn’t there in the group stage.
But if somehow the matches get completely washed out, it means bad news for hosts England.
ICC rules state: “If after the scheduled day and reserve day the semi-final match has still not reached a result, the higher-placed team from the league stage will progress to the final.”
Also “if there is no play possible on either the originally schedule day of the final, nor the reserve day, the World Cup will be shared by the two finalist teams.”
In that case, India and Australia will make it to the semis as the Indians topped the group stage while the Aussies finished second.
The biggest prize in cricket is up for grabs this summer as the top 10 teams battle it out in the 2019 ICC World Cup in England.
As fans, it’s not just watching the best players battle it out to look forward to. Fantasy cricket means you have the opportunity to get involved as well.
Dream11 is the official partner of the ICC tournament’s fantasy league. And we are with you every step of the way with our tips and picks to guide you through each round.
The penultimate round features the two semi-final games with India taking on New Zealand and England facing Australia.
Openers to thrive on batting surfaces
Both Old Trafford and Edgbaston have proved to be really good batting surfaces. Australia, England and India boast of an incredibly top-heavy batting line-up. Rohit Sharma is currently in the form of his life, with David Warner, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow not far behind. KL Rahul has seemingly picked the right time to peak and Aaron Finch too looks to be in great form.
One can expect fireworks at the top of the order on Tuesday and Thursday, with at least three of the six players firing to a big score.
You would want to stay clear of the New Zealand openers who have been disappointing this World Cup.
Fresh from cruising to a century in India’s win over Sri Lanka, the leading run-getter of the tournament will be looking to lead the Men in Blue to their third Cricket World Cup final in the 21st century. The Old Trafford hosted Rohit’s sensational ton against Pakistan and could witness yet another master-class from the Indian opener.
The 32-year-old has registered six 50+ scores in eight innings, five of which were converted into tons. Rohit was dismissed for just two runs by Trent Boult when the two teams met in a warm-up game prior to the World Cup. But the momentum is currently in the batsman’s favour as he attempts to reach yet another big score.
With successive tons against India and New Zealand under his belt, English opener Bairstow will be entering the semis in the right frame of mind. He will be wielding the willow on the same ground where he scored 111 against India and Australia conceded 325 against South Africa.
The conditions are in Bairstow’s favour and his late resurgence in the World Cup could propel him to a big total on the big day.
The Aussie openers have been very consistent so far and runs will continue to flow in all likelihood. When it comes to choosing between Warner and Finch in a fantasy team, it’s usually a coin toss. Both players are almost equally likely to reach triple digits.
However, Finch could marginally beat Warner to being the wiser pick in this case, thanks to his ton against the same opposition a few days ago. 507 runs, two centuries, three fifties, more on the way?
Boult’s in-swingers are bound to rattle the Indian batting department, much like they did in the warm-up game in which India were bowled out for just 179 runs. The top order has shown some improvement since but the middle-order remains the biggest flaw in India’s World Cup campaign.
Should Boult break the dam at the top of India’s batting line-up, he could cause a catastrophic middle-order collapse.
The break-out star of the World Cup will make it his responsibility to lead his team to their first World Cup final in 27 years. Archer has picked up 17 wickets so far and has come clutch whenever his team needed him. The 24-year-old has bowled 300 dot-balls in this tournament and has appeared unplayable at times.
Arguably England’s most potent arrow in the quiver, Archer could hold the key against eternal rivals Australia at a ground that has been favourable to England.
While Mitchell Starc is the obvious choice among the Aussie bowlers, Jason Behrendorff could also make a fair case to his claim after a sensational performance against England a few days ago.
The 29-year-old removed openers James Vince and Bairstow to hand his team a solid start. In his last spell, Behrendorff returned to clean the tail and complete a five-wicket haul. The pacer could team up with Starc to knock England out of the competition.
All-rounder James Neesham has been one of the few consistent players for the Kiwis. The Auckland-born has scored 201 runs and claimed 11 wickets so far, placing himself among the upper echelons of all-rounders in this tournament.
The 29-year-old could be handy with the bat in the middle overs. With the ball, Neesham can provide the breakthrough that his team might need half-way through India’s innings.
Ben Stokes has been a warrior for England in desperate times. The batting all-rounder registered 80-plus scores against Sri Lanka and Australia in a losing cause and has been one of their best players when under pressure.
The 28-year-old has scored 401 runs and claimed seven wickets in this tournament, playing a crucial role in England’s deep run. Stokes was a thorn in Australia’s side during their win over England in the group stages and could continue to prick in the semis.
Alex Carey has been an unexpected entry into the league of swashbuckling wicketkeeper-batsmen who love to cause havoc in the death overs. The southpaw has slowly helped himself to 329 runs despite playing at the lower end of the batting order.
Expect Carey to play an explosive cameo against England, like he has done in the World Cup so far. Also, the 27-year-old prefers to deal in boundaries and a batting free-hit in this tie could help amplify his impact.
Captain: Trent Boult
Vice-captain: Jonny Bairstow