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Aussies give Handscomb huge chance to shine

 

Coming in: Peter Handscomb has had the call from Australia
Coming in: Peter Handscomb has had the call from Australia

By Rory Dollard

Australia will call on Peter Handscomb for the first time in over three months when they take on England in the World Cup semi-final tomorrow.

The 28-year-old was axed from the original 15-man squad after the return of Steve Smith and David Warner from year-long ball-tampering bans but was drafted in as a replacement for the injured Shaun Marsh.

Now Usman Khawaja's hamstring problem has opened up a place in the XI and head coach Justin Langer confirmed Handscomb would get a huge chance to make his mark on the tournament on a grand stage at Edgbaston.

"I'll tell you the truth: Peter will definitely play, 100%," he said.

"He deserves it. 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's played well for Australia A and gives us that nice balance through the middle order. He's on top of his game."

Langer also confirmed Matthew Wade would come into the squad in place of Khawaja, a decision the Australians had been deferring but now appear committed to.

Pending approval from the International Cricket Council's technical committee, Langer even suggested the Tasmanian had a chance to break into the team.

"He'll just come in as the official replacement for Usman Khawaja. Like everyone in the squad there's potential for him to play, definitely," he said.

"He's a real seasoned pro and he's had an unbelievable 12 months or so in domestic cricket. With his experience, if he plays, then we're confident he'll do a really good job."

Marcus Stoinis provided some good news for Australia's overworked medical team, passed fit to play after side trouble following a robust workout in the nets.

Langer was also called on to explain Australia's barefoot walkabout at the ground on Monday. The side discarded shoes and socks for a lap of the outfield on arrival at Edgbaston, and stayed that way as they shared stories in a so-called "bonding circle".

They attracted some amused reactions, but for Langer, who has worked hard to rebuild the national side's team ethos in the aftermath of the sandpaper scandal, it is all part of a wider project.

"It's a nice thing to do. Haydos (Matthew Hayden) and I used to do it as a bit of a ritual before every Test match," he said.

"It was just walking a lap of the oval with our shoes off. We could've done it with our shoes on and nobody would've said anything."

Meanwhile, the first semi-final between India and New Zealand had to be abandoned yesterday due to persistent rain.

The Black Caps had played 46.1 overs of their innings, reaching a score of 211-5, but rain caused play to be suspended at 2.01pm, with the weather not allowing them to resume.

Weather permitting, New Zealand will resume their innings at 10.30am today from the point at which it was halted.

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