(Reuters) – Australia coach Justin Langer has always worn his heart on his sleeve so it is perhaps no surprise that his reaction to facing pre-tournament favourites England in the World Cup 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?”
The five-times World Cup winners face the tournament hosts to decide who will meet the winner of the first semi-final between India and New Zealand in Manchester on Tuesday.
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.”
(Writing by Greg Stutchbury in Wellington; Editing by Nick Mulvenney)