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Who will open for Australia? Finch drops hints on likely XI

Aaron Finch, the Australia limited-overs captain, hinted that he would likely open at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019, with either David Warner or Usman Khawaja partnering him at the top.

Warner and Steve Smith were named in Australia's 15-man squad for the tournament, announced on Monday, 15 April. But the duo's comeback, after serving their bans, threatens to leave Australia with a problem of plenty in the top order. Peter Handscomb and Ashton Turner lost out on selection, despite match-winning performances in recent times, and with Finch, Usman Khawaja and Shaun Marsh doing well in the series in India and the UAE, Australia's XI at the World Cup looks unclear.

Finch and Khawaja have averaged 81.70 for the first wicket this year, combining for three century-stands and four fifty-run stands in just 10 innings. But Finch and Warner have enjoyed considerable success in the past, too, averaging 44.29 in 48 innings. Warner has been in blazing form in the 2019 Indian Premier League, topping the charts with a ton and four half-centuries – which means one of the three in-form players will have to sit out or bat out of his most familiar spot.

Speaking to reporters after the squad announcement, Finch suggested that it was unlikely that one of the three would miss out, and that it would be between Khawaja and Warner to join him at the top to maintain a left-right combination, with the other batting at No.3.

“Davey’s record at the top is unbelievable and Uzzie’s been in great nick recently," he said. "Whichever way we go, there’s scope to mix and match that as we go through the tournament. We’ll work that out, there’s nothing set in stone right now.

We've seen in the past that Warner and Smith are two of the great players in international cricket. I've got no doubts that they'll be up and going and firing.

Aaron Finch

“I think all three of us could [bat at No.3]. I’ve probably got the least experience out of all three of us in that position in limited-overs cricket. It’s something we’ll juggle and tinker with. I think a left-right combination is probably the way we’ll go, it just depends on which left-hander [opens].”

Khawaja has been the top run-scorer for Australia this year, averaging 59.15, with two hundreds. Indicating that his spot was secure, the captain was all praise for the left-hander: “He’s a class player and the form that he’s been in over the last six months in one-day cricket has been unbelievable. He’s done everything he can: he’s got big runs and big hundreds in important games, and when a series has been on the line, so that’s a huge thing. And when he gets in, he’s so hard to stop as well.”

'Whichever way we go, there’s scope to mix and match' – Aaron Finch
'Whichever way we go, there’s scope to mix and match' – Aaron Finch

The next big selection tussle is between Smith and Marsh. The former captain, who struggled with an elbow injury recently, hasn't particularly lit up the IPL, whereas Marsh averages 48.33 in 11 ODI innings this year. However, Finch strongly backed Smith to come good.

“I’ll say yes; the short answer is yes,” he said when asked if Smith would make the XI. "As world-class players, you always put pressure on yourself to perform and I think that's what great players do well, they perform under pressure when they're needed.

"Steve has probably been a bit slower to start and his injury has probably held him back slightly. But we've seen in the past that [Warner and Smith] are two of the great players in international cricket. I've got no doubts that they'll be up and going and firing."

Afghanistan fans celebrate a boundary during the 2019 Cricket World Cup warm up match between England and Afghanistan at The Oval in London on May 27, 2019.


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