Peter Handscomb will be thrown into the deep end after Justin Langer confirmed he would make his World Cup debut in Thursday’s semi-final against England.
Considered the unluckiest man by Langer to miss Australia’s original squad, Handscomb will come in for the injured Usman Khawaja at Edgbaston.
Marcus Stoinis has also proven his fitness for Thursday’s clash, after showing selectors he’d beaten a side strain in a lengthy session.
The allrounder bowled for around 30 minutes and batted for an hour in the Birmingham nets, showing no sign of discomfort.
But it is Handscomb’s inclusion that gives the biggest hint over what team Australia will take into their most important one-day game in four years.
The Victorian only joined the camp last week when Shaun Marsh broke his wrist, forcing him to make a middle-of-the-night dash from the Australia A camp.
“Peter Handsocmb will definitely play, 100 per cent,” Langer said.
“He deserves it, he was really stiff not to be on this tour. 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 played well for Australia A, he gives us nice balance through that middle order.
“He’s got great temperament, he plays the spin well and he’s on top of his game.”
Steve Smith is tipped to move up to No.3, with Handscomb at No.4.
Matthew Wade has also come into the extended 15-man squad for Khawaja, and it’s not out of the question that he could play given his explosive nature.
That would only happen if Australia opted not to pick Glenn Maxwell or Stoinis, after Langer refused to guarantee their spots when pushed on the pair.
“We’ll pick our 11 and you’ll see it at the toss, I reckon,” Langer said.
Thursday’s semi-final is the clash of the World Cup heavyweights but they come from completely contrasting lead ups.
England have dominated one-day cricket for the past four years, spending more than a year as the world’s No.1 ranked team headed into the tournament.
Australia, meanwhile, endured the year from hell last year, and at one stage earlier in 2019 were on a run of 21 losses in 25 one-day games.
But they have rebounded at the right point in the cycle, ready to defend their crown with an impeccable undefeated record in World Cup semi-finals.
“We’ve got a very proud record. I’m not sure what the reason is for that. But come Thursday I hope our boys bring out that trait or whatever traits may be,” Langer said.
“You have to focus on it like its another game of cricket, we have to focus on our processes, stick to our game plans.
“That’s about mental toughness as well. The great players in the past have been incredibly mentally strong and … stand up in the big games.”
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