Australia's batting order remains a work in progress.
Australia's batting order remains a work in progress.

Mystery surrounds Aussie selection headache

JUST five days out from Australia's opening World Cup match against Afghanistan, a clutch of selection dramas is still giving coach Justin Langer sleepless nights. 

Fringe players are still unsure where they stand heading into Monday night's final warm-up match against Sri Lanka after several underlined their cases with impressive performances in the win against England.

Usman Khawaja only found out before that match that he would bat at No.5 while the fight for the fourth bowling slot is a case of heads bobbing at the line.

Khawaja's clear preference is to open the batting but the Queenslander looked comfortable down the order as he made a handy 31 (38) before being stumped.

"It was a bit different. I haven't really batted No.5 at all in my career," Khawaja said.

"I love opening in one-day cricket, that's where I've always batted. I do like to be up the top."

Shaun Marsh returned to No.3 against England and hopes his versatility in the order - as well as his brutal record in England, where the World Cup will be played, - helps him seal the final batting place.

Marsh thumped two centuries in England last year and is averaging 55.1 from his past 17 ODIs.

Usman Khawaja looked comfortable down the order.
Usman Khawaja looked comfortable down the order.

But Khawaja is the leading run-scorer in 2019, punching out scores of 104 (113), 91 (99), 100 (106), 88 (109) and 98 (111) in recent wins and appears slightly ahead of Marsh.

David Warner will replace Khawaja as Finch's opening partner despite coach Justin Langer experimenting with him at No.3 in two warm-up games.

Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Adam Zampa are locks but the fourth bowler could be any of Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Kane Richardson or defensive spinner Nathan Lyon.

Lyon's 1/37 helped build pressure against England while death bowling guru Richardson claimed 2/51 and took a nice outfield catch deep in the innings.

But Richardson said he needed to be able to bowl in all three stages to be picked.

England's Jos Buttler - who reminds Richardson of AB de Villiers - smacked Coulter-Nile for 24 runs off one over, although Coulter-Nile responded with a slower ball the next over to remove the destructive batsman.

Behrendorff dismissed top-order batsmen James Vince and Jonny Bairstow and could form a tricky new-ball partnership with fellow left-armer Starc.

Adam Zampa looms as a likely spin option.
Adam Zampa looms as a likely spin option.

Interestingly, Zampa bowled in the powerplay (eighth over) against England and has been instructed to keep attacking even if his figures are blowing out.

Glenn Maxwell will return against Sri Lanka today and is a World Cup lock while Marcus Stoinis, another crafty death bowler, is important to the side's structure.

"I don't think we've had the same batting line-up the last five games," keeper Alex Carey said after smacking 30 off 14 balls in an important knock.

Match-winner Steve Smith said the team spoke pre-game about the significance of knocking off the world's No.1 team in England, albeit in a warm-up game.

"Their one-day cricket has been phenomenal the past couple of years, Whilst it is a practice match, it is good over the line against the N.1 side in the world," Smith said.

News Corp Australia


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