Thursday, 9 December 2021

Australia bare souls in barefoot bonding session

BIRMINGHAM: Australia’s cricketers poured their hearts out and shared their Cricket World Cup dreams in a barefoot bonding session at Edgbaston as the champions look to rally in their semi-final clash against England.

Rocked by a spate of injuries and a surprise 10-run loss to South Africa, coach Justin Langer, a self-described “hippy”, had his players whip their socks and shoes off for a lap of a ground that has not produced overwhelming success for Australian teams. Aaron Finch’s team and its entourage of support staff sat down in a circle on the field, with each member taking turns to talk about the side’s run in the tournament and what it would mean to hoist the trophy at Lord’s after the final.

“(It was) just a moment to get a feel for the ground – literally,” said Peter Handscomb, drafted in as injury cover after Shaun Marsh’s departure. “It’s something the coach has done before at other venues for a bit of grounding. It was nice. You get a feel of the grass on your feet, the positive and negative energy flowing through and coming out of the earth.”

Australia have not won an ODI match at the ground since 1993 or had an international victory of any sort at the venue since the 2001 Ashes Test. However, the ground holds special memories for Australian fans who remember the 1999 World Cup semi-final when Steve Waugh’s side held on for a famous draw against South Africa with two balls to spare. Australia went on to win the final against Pakistan, then defend their title twice from 2003-07.

Precious memories aside, the champions’ planning for the semi-final has been hurt by the loss of batsman Usman Khawaja, ruled out of the tournament with a hamstring injury. There may be better news for Marcus Stoinis, however, with the beefy all-rounder fighting to recover from a side strain, his second at the tournament.

He was to be put through a fitness test later on Tuesday, bowling coach Adam Griffith said. “He’s pretty tough, Stoin. He’s played with the left side (strain) through the tournament and he bowled seven overs against England in a row and got through it okay,” he added. Much-maligned all-rounder Mitchell Marsh has been drafted in as cover for Stoinis despite not playing an ODI since January 2018.

Wicketkeeper-batsman Matthew Wade has also been brought into the squad. Late arrival Handscomb said there should be no doubt over the reinforcements’ ability to step up. “It’s not like we haven’t been playing, we’ve had one-dayers here in the Aussie A stuff – it’s a good lead in. We’re ready to go,” he said.

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