Australian players attend a training session in Birmingham on Monday.
Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon says his side will be the underdogs when they face hosts England in the Cricket World Cup semi-finals. “They have been the No. 1 team for a couple of years now. They should be going into this World Cup as favourites. It’s all on them,” said Lyon.
“It’s their World Cup to lose if you ask me. We have got nothing to lose, only got stuff to gain.”
The 31-year-old said the Australians were on the verge of “something special” and that they would make sure they were fully prepared for Thursday’s semi at Edgbaston.
“Every time you play against England, you want to compete hard against them and try and come out on the top. Obviously their side is full of absolute superstars, and we are definitely going in as underdogs,” Lyon said.
Meanwhile, Australia coach Justin Langer has always worn his heart on his sleeve so it is perhaps no surprise that his reaction to facing pre- England in the semi-finals was not fear but pure, unbridled enthusiasm.
“Phwoah! It doesn’t get much better does it?” he told reporters in Birmingham, where the reigning champions will face England on Thursday. “We’re really excited. World Cup semi-final in England against England is going to be huge.
“Both teams will be battle-hardened. Both have had really good lead ups. Both really good teams.
“I’m sure everyone will be nervous going into it but excited because as I said, England against Australia in England. How good is that?”
Langer’s team were pipped to the top-ranking in their final pool match - a surprise 10-run loss to South Africa on Saturday - and have lost batsmen Shaun Marsh and Usman Khawaja to injury over the last week.
All-rounder Marcus Stoinis is also under an injury cloud and Langer has had to bring Matthew Wade and Peter Handscomb into the squad with Mitch Marsh placed on standby.
Langer, however, said that while Wade had not played for Australia since October 2017 and Marsh had not played an ODI since early 2018, he had no issues with all three stepping into the seething cauldron of a semi-final if selected.
“It is pressure for anyone, but there is pressure for all 22 guys on the park,” he said.
“Matthew Wade has played a lot of international cricket if he comes in. There’s a real upside to him and he is in no doubt career-best form.
“Pete Handscomb a few months ago helped us beat India 3-2 in India in their conditions and then 5-0 against Pakistan in the UAE. His temperament is excellent for it.
“Mitch Marsh has also played a lot of one day international cricket. We’re really lucky.”
All three players were with the Australia ‘A’ squad that were touring England at the same time as the World Cup and Langer said the foresight of that decision was now bearing fruit.
“Imagine if all the boys were still in Australia and hadn’t played any cricket?” Langer said. “Then we’d be really nervous about it.
“The boys are all up and running. So it was great vision from Cricket Australia. That’s a luxury for us and a real bonus.”
Australia’s stars walked barefoot on the Edgbaston pitch on Monday in an unusual team bonding session.
Aaron Finch’s side began their training session at Birmingham venue for Thursday’s England showdown by discarding their socks and trainers.
The World Cup holders then took a walk across the playing surface and 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 final week of the tournament.
The move was inspired by Australia head coach Langer, who last year described himself as “a bit of a hippy”, spending a month a year growing out his beard and walking barefoot.
Handscomb has yet to play in the tournament, having joined up as a replacement for Marsh, but is in line to face England in place of the injured 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.”