Peter Handscomb will be thrown into the deep end with a World Cup semi-final berth against England, but Australia’s team for Edgbaston still appears uncertain.
Coach Justin Langer confirmed Handscomb would make his World Cup debut on Thursday, replacing the injured Usman Khawaja.
However, that was all he was willing to reveal as speculation mounted Australia could be about to make a change to their middle order.
Langer on Tuesday refused to guarantee the selection of Glenn Maxwell or Marcus Stoinis, after the latter passed a fitness test on Tuesday.
In-form batsman Matthew Wade is now waiting in the wings, after being called into the extended 15-man squad as a replacement for Khawaja.
“I’ll tell you Peter Handscomb will definitely play, 100 per cent,” Langer said.
“He deserves it, he was really stiff not to be on this tour. 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 played well for Australia A, he gives us nice balance through that middle order.”
Stoinis on Tuesday bowled for more 30 minutes and batted for more than an hour without issue.
Given that work out – and his value as a fourth seamer – it would appear unlikely Australia would drop him.
Maxwell on the other hand has averaged just 22.14 at the World Cup.
When asked to confirm either of the pair’s selection on Tuesday, Langer said: “We’ll pick our 11 and you’ll see it at the toss, I reckon.”
If Wade came in he would likely bat at No.3, leaving Smith to stay at No.4 with Handscomb and Stoinis to follow.
Otherwise, Smith will likely move up the order to first drop, with Handscomb, Maxwell, Stoinis and Carey arriving after him.
Regardless of who plays, they will enter a high-pressure situation on Thursday.
That match is a clash of the World Cup heavyweights, despite completely contrasting lead ups.
England have dominated one-day cricket for the past four years, spending more than a year as the world’s No.1 ranked team headed into the tournament.
Australia, meanwhile, endured the year from hell last year, and at one stage earlier in 2019 were on a run of 21 losses in 25 one-day games.
But they have rebounded at the right time, ready to defend their crown with an impeccable undefeated record in World Cup semi-finals.
“We’ve got a very proud record,” Langer said.
“I’m not sure what the reason is for that. But come Thursday I hope our boys bring out that trait or whatever traits may be.
“You have to focus on it like it’s another game of cricket, we have to focus on our processes, stick to our game plans.
“That’s about mental toughness as well. The great players in the past have been incredibly mentally strong and … stand up in the big games.”