MANCHESTER (Reuters) – 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 for the remainder of the World Cup prior and now look likely to be without another top order batsman in Usman Khawaja after he suffered a hamstring injury while batting.
All-rounder Marcus Stoinis needed treatment for a back issue and will also undergo scans on Sunday, while fast bowler Mitchell Starc had an off-day with the ball and did not appear to be moving too freely either.
“It doesn’t look ideal for Usman Khawaja at the moment, but we will have to wait and see,” Finch told reporters in the wake of the South Africa loss.
“He will have a scan in the morning and then we will make a call based on what the results are.
“(With Stoinis) we are not sure … at the moment he feels okay, but until you get the definitive scans, it is tough to know.”
The selectors have already brought batsman Peter Handscomb into the squad following the loss of Marsh, who was originally included in the squad as cover for Khawaja.
Fortunately the Australia A side is also on tour in England with Matt Wade, a veteran of 94 international one-dayers, in fine form with the bat.
“If they need to be replaced, which I should imagine Usman will, there are plenty of guys who have been playing some good one-day cricket,” Finch said.
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.”
(Reporting By Nick Said; editing by Nick Mulvenney)