Limping Australia look forward to blockbuster England semi-final - GulfToday

Limping Australia look forward to blockbuster England semi-final

Cricket Australia

Australian players during a net session.

Australia captain Aaron Finch is relishing a “blockbuster” Cricket World Cup semi-final against England at Edgbaston on Thursday but injury concerns threaten to derail the plans of the defending champions.

Finch’s side slipped to a 10-run defeat to already-eliminated South Africa in their final round-robin fixture at Old Trafford on Saturday, a result that saw them knocked off top spot in the table.

It means they now face the host nation in the semi-finals, while India will take on a New Zealand side that has stumbled into the knockout stages with some indifferent performances.

Australia had already lost Shaun Marsh batsman and coach Justin Langer has confirmed batsman Usman Khawaja will miss the rest of the World Cup with a hamstring strain.

Top-order batsman Khawaja suffered the left hamstring injury in Australia’s surprise 10-run defeat by South Africa at Old Trafford on Saturday.

Matthew Wade will replace Khawaja in the World Cup holders’ 15-man squad, subject to confirmation from the International Cricket Council.

Khawaja’s absence will be a blow for Australia heading into Thursday’s semi-final clash with old rivals England at Edgbaston.

“It’s such a pity for Khawaja, for someone who’s been so integral to how we’ve been playing,” Langer told Cricket Australia’s website on Sunday.

“Like Shaun (Marsh, who broke his arm on Thursday) I feel that sad for him that he’s going to miss the World Cup semi-final.

“Matthew Wade is coming up, he’s in great form, he’s had a great 12 or 18 months back home but he also just scored two hundreds (for Australia A) so he’s in great nick.”

Meanwhile, Marcus Stoinis was hampered by a side complaint against South Africa, an issue which had already sidelined the all-rounder for two group-stage matches.

Mitchell Marsh has been added to the squad as cover for Stoinis, who missed Australia’s wins over Pakistan and Sri Lanka before returning against Bangladesh.

“Mitch Marsh is going to come on standby for Marcus Stoinis just to see how he comes up. If they have to come in they’ll be ready to step up,” Langer added.

There is no doubt that Australia would have preferred a semi-final against New Zealand, leaving title rivals England and India to battle it out for a final spot, but they must now take on the hosts at one of their favourite venues.

“It’s going to be a blockbuster, it doesn’t get much bigger than Australia-England in a World Cup semi-final,” Finch said.

“Edgbaston is a beautiful ground to play at and the fans are always entertaining down there. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

Australia overwhelmed England in their group stage meeting at Lord’s but, significantly, the hosts were without Jason Roy that day, with the opener now fit again and firing on all cylinders.

“You have to beat everyone, regardless of who it is or where it is,” Finch told reporters.

“Playing well against England a couple of weeks ago obviously will give us some confidence going into that game.

“England have been in really good form recently so we are going to have to be at our absolute best to win that.

“But it’s going to be exciting. Any time Australia plays England, it’s exciting.

Chasing a target of 326 on Saturday, Australia almost got home thanks to a third century of the tournament from opener David Warner (122) and wicketkeeper Alex Carey’s career-best 85, only to be bowled out for 315 off the penultimate ball.

Defeat was compounded by the sight of batsman Khawaja retiring hurt on six with a hamstring injury, while all-rounder Marcus Stoinis continued to struggle with a side strain.

Khawaja bravely came back on to resume his innings in an unsuccessful bid to get Australia over the line. Reflecting on the reasons behind Saturday’s loss, the skipper, out for three when he fell to veteran leg-spinner Imran Tahir, said: “I think we were just slightly off with our execution in the field and with the bat as well.

“There were a couple of lazy dismissals, including myself.”

But Finch paid tribute to Warner, who has been in superb form since returning to top level international Cricket at this tournament following a 12-month ban for his part in last year’s ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.

“He played magnificently today. It is never easy when you are losing wickets at the other end,” Finch said.

“He showed his class today and it was an unbelievable knock to get 122.

“That was as good an innings he could have played. He is a big game player.”

There was also praise for Warner from closer to home with his wife Candice, who gave birth to the couple’s third daughter in London last week, tweeting: “Well done my love @davidwarner31 on another terrific century for your country.