‘We’ll be doing everything we can to nullify Bairstow and Roy’ – Justin Langer

Australia

Take early wickets. It’s an obvious goal, one that is frequently offered ahead of any match. But, as they head for Edgbaston to face England in their semi-final, Australia know that breaking the opening partnership of Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy is likely to be key to any possibility of reaching the final.

When Australia beat England by 64 runs in their group match at Lord’s, Roy was out with a hamstring injury, but Justin Langer acknowledged that England are a much more formidable side when their opening twins are conjoined.

“It’s like us bringing back Steve Smith and David Warner and Mitchell Starc,” Langer said. “Whenever you take your best players out it changes the confidence in the group and we respect that, we know. That’s why I’ve said all along, I think England is the team to beat at the World Cup. They’ve done brilliantly for the last few years, they deserve to be the best team in the world. You’ve still got to beat them, it doesn’t matter how you play.”

While Australia took their final group match against South Africa deep into the final overs, hampered by injuries to Usman Khawaja and Marcus Stoinis, their inability to take wickets in the opening Powerplay was costly and uncharacteristic, something they hope to turn around against England.

“We didn’t stick to our game,” Langer said. “They were 0 for 70 after the first 10 – we pride ourselves on trying to take wickets early, we pride ourselves on keeping wickets available in the first 10.

“Bairstow and Roy are a huge part of England’s success and we’ll be doing everything we can to nullify that.”

Langer said he’s expecting to encounter a flat pitch at Edgbaston. The semi-final will be played on a fresh strip in the centre of the field, eliminating the short boundary that was a talking point during India’s loss to England and win against Bangladesh. But, despite the fact that 16 of the past 22 games in the tournament have been won by the team batting first and several pitches have slowed noticeably through the course of a match, Langer doesn’t believe that pitches have been the overriding reason for unsuccessful chases.

“We’ve seen it [deteriorating pitches] once for the whole tournament. Maybe once or twice. The England vs New Zealand game seem to get harder.

“It’s more the batting first at a World Cup than the pressure of the wickets. A lot of teams have chased and won in the last few years, it’s become a bit of trend but not here. I think that’s the pressure not the wickets. When it comes to the day, whether you bat first or you bowl first, you’ve just got to be at your best.”

Not only can Australia deprive England of a World Cup final; by winning at Edgbaston, they could deny English fans the opportunity to watch the match on free-to-air television; only if England make it to Lord’s will Sky agree to open up the broadcast to a free-to-air partner. But Langer dismissed the notion that such matters could heap added pressure on England.

“I think when it gets to the game, they won’t be worried about free-to-air TV or what Michael Vaughan or anyone else says,” Langer said. “I think they will be thinking about beating us in the semi-final. There would be lots of talk and lots of noise around about the reasons why they would be determined, they have been very good for the last few years. They are playing great cricket. They will come in confident after the last two games. They will have enough pressure, we will have enough pressure, and that is what World Cup semi-finals are all about.

“They can build it up as much as they want to, England, or the media can build it up on England, but I am not worried about the pressure on England. We have got enough of our own to deal with, our own problems to solve over the next three or four days. We will do that then put our best foot forward for the semi-final.”

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