Australia will call on Peter Handscomb for the first time in over three months when they take on England in the World Cup semi-final.
The 28-year-old was axed from the original 15-man squad after the return of Steve Smith and David Warner from year-long ball-tampering bans but was drafted in as a replacement for the injured Shaun Marsh.
Now Usman Khawaja’s hamstring problem has opened up a place in the XI and head coach Justin Langer confirmed Handscomb would get a huge, belated chance to make his mark on the tournament on a grand stage at Edgbaston.
“I’ll tell you the truth: Peter will definitely play, 100%,” he said.
“He deserves it. He was so unlucky not to be in the initial squad after what he’d done to help us get to that point. He’s in good form, he’s played well for Australia A and gives us that nice balance through the middle order. He’s on top of his game.”
Langer also confirmed Matthew Wade would come into the squad in place of Khawaja, a decision the Australians had been deferring but now appear committed to.
Pending approval from the International Cricket Council’s technical committee, Langer even suggested the Tasmanian had a chance to break into the team.
“He’ll just come in as the official replacement for Usman Khawaja. Like everyone in the squad there’s potential for him to play, definitely,” he said.
“He’s a real seasoned pro and he’s had an unbelievable 12 months or so in domestic cricket. With his experience, if he plays, then we’re confident he’ll do a really good job.”
Marcus Stoinis provided some good news for Australia’s overworked medical team, passed fit to play after side trouble following a robust workout in the nets.
Langer was also called on to explain Australia’s barefoot walkabout at the ground on Monday. The side discarded shoes and socks for a lap of the outfield on arrival at Edgbaston, and stayed that way as they shared stories in a so-called “bonding circle”.
They attracted some amused reactions but for Langer, who has worked hard to rebuild the national side’s team ethos in the aftermath of the sandpaper scandal, it is all part of a wider project.
“It’s a nice thing to do. Haydos (Matthew Hayden) and I used to do it as a bit of a ritual before every Test match,” he said.
“It was just walking a lap of the oval with our shoes off. We could’ve done it with our shoes on and nobody would’ve said anything.
“If you go back 12 months there wasn’t much to be relaxed and chilled about in Australian cricket, was there? We went through a major crisis in our cricket. It didn’t just affect our cricket, it affected our country. We’ve got to work hard on being more humble in what we do and being focused on playing good cricket.
“It’s not the first time we have walked around the oval with our shoes off, that’s the truth, we have done it 15 times.”
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Weather played spoilsport in Manchester with the first 2019 ICC World Cup semi-final between India and New Zealand ultimately deferred to a reserve day.
The Kiwis were batting at 211-5 in 46.1 overs after skipper Kane Williamson elected to bat first before rain halted proceedings at Old Trafford. They will now resume from the same score on Wednesday although the weather forecast for Wednesday isn’t too promising either.
New Zealand’s start with the bat was a poor and circumspect one with Martin Guptill’s woeful run of form continuing. The Kiwis were able to muster just the 27 runs in the first 10 overs with Jasprit Bumrah accounting for Guptill’s wicket.
Skipper Kane Williamson (67) battled hard once again through partnerships with Henry Nicholls and then Ross Taylor as he brought up his fourth 50-plus score of the tournament.
However, Williamson and the Kiwi batsmen were kept at bay for the most part by a disciplined and probing bowling display by India. Williamson’s gritty stay was ended by Yuzvendra Chahal just when the New Zealand skipper was threatening to up the ante.
Taylor brought up his third half-century of the World Cup campaign as New Zealand tried to regain a foothold in the game but they were pegged back once again with Colin de Grandhomme’s dismissal before rain brought a frustrating end to the play.
India show their bowling might again
It was yet another highly disciplined bowling effort from India with all five bowlers playing their part.
Right from the get go, India’s new-ball duo of Jasprit Bumrah and Bhuvneshwar Kumar were on the money with New Zealand’s openers stifled for room with some excellent lines and lengths.
That early intensity was kept up by Hardik Pandya, Ravindra Jadeja and Yuzvendra Chahal when they came on to bowl with the Kiwi batsmen finding run-scoring hard to come by.
New Zealand’s struggles against India’s bowling was exemplified by the fact that they played as many as 153 dot deliveries which make up more than 25 overs of their innings.
It was relentless stuff from India’s bowlers and a performance that will please skipper Kohli no end.
The all-rounder was rewarded for his excellent showing in the Sri Lanka clash with a semi-final appearance and he vindicated that decision with a superb bowling display.
His left-arm orthodox spin worked a treat on a slowing pitch and the grip he extracted from the surface had the batsmen in two minds. His delivery to castle Henry Nicholls’ stumps was a peach and the Kiwi opener was completely deceived by the flight and dip on the ball.
He finished with overall figures of 1-34 from his 10 overs in the course of which he bowled a staggering 38 dot balls.
India to go through if no more play
With the weather forecast for Wednesday in Manchester not looking too bright, there is a possibility that no result will be able to be determined even after a reserve day.
In that case, India will advance to the July 14 final at Lord’s due to the fact that they finished higher than New Zealand in the round-robin phase of the tournament. India had topped the table while the Black Caps had finished in fourth spot.
Ben Stokes is treating England’s World Cup semi-final against Australia as the most important game of his career.
The England all-rounder is no stranger to the big stage, turning out for his country on 166 occasions across all formats and memorably stepping up to bowl the final over of the World Twenty20 final in front of 66,000 fans in 2016.
That did not go to plan, with West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite snatching an unlikely victory by clubbing Stokes for four sixes in a row, but Thursday’s game at Edgbaston represents something even bigger for the 28-year-old.
The opposition are England’s oldest and bitterest rivals, the prize on offer is once-in-a-generation game at Lord’s and the trophy waiting at the end is one the national side have spent 44 years chasing in vain.
Asked if the game ahead was the biggest he has experienced, Stokes said: “Yes, to date. Definitely.
“It’s a massive occasion for us as players and as a nation. Playing against Australia is a big occasion– in any sport. The rivalry goes way back and we have the Ashes this summer too. Beating them is that touch better than any other team.”
“I’ve had a few days off and got out of the bubble but when you come back to the team you get those butterflies again.”
England have dominated the last two one-day series against Australia, winning home and away as they established a win-loss record of 10-1 heading into the competition. The form book counted for nothing in the group stage, though, with the visitors landing a 64-run victory.
“Losing to them at Lord’s was massively disappointing so I think there will be a bit of redemption for that, knowing we have the chance to beat them and get to that final,” predicted Stokes.
He is less inclined to see the game as a chance for personal redemption. Having missed the last Ashes defeat Down Under following his well-documented brawl in Bristol – an incident that concluded with his acquittal on a charge of affray – he was welcomed back with warm, unconditional support from his team-mates.
“I don’t feel like I have to prove anything to anyone except myself,” he said.
“It opened my eyes up to a lot of things, two years ago, but I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. It’s just showing I can deliver on the biggest stage.
“Winning is the most important thing and if you can help the team out with an individual performance, that’s all that counts. People can say good things, bad things…it just won’t bother me.”
Australia have two players of their own who have had to deal with their share of public comment, David Warner and Steve Smith.
The pair are still just a matter of weeks into their comebacks after year-long bans for the sandpaper scandal and have been on the end of some icy welcomes from the British public. Warner in particular has thrived in the circumstances, scoring three centuries and three fifties in the tournament, while Smith has managed three half-centuries.
“I have huge respect for them for performing like they have coming back, being able to block all that out,” said Stokes.
“Respect to them for dealing with on-field pressures and the crowds, while still delivering.”
Stokes has also been standing tall in the tournament, averaging over 50 with the bat and under 30 with the ball.
Those numbers underline his importance to the side but it is another – an economy rate of just 4.65 making him England’s stingiest bowler – that gives him most satisfaction.
“It’s always nice to get runs but the most pleasing thing has been my bowling,” he said.
“I had a chat with Morgs (captain Eoin Morgan) and a few others in the team to get my head around my role. Being fourth or fifth seamer, I sometimes put too much pressure on myself to influence the game.
“So I spoke to them about not trying to take wickets every ball. That’s helped offer the team more. In the last couple of years it’s probably where I have let the team down.”
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