Newcomers in hunt for spots on England tour: Langer

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MELBOURNE: Australia will pick their best XI against England during the white-ball tour next month but fringe players can win selection by impressing in intra-squad warm-up matches, head coach Justin Langer said on Thursday.

Australia will bring a bumper 21-man squad for the T20 and one-day series in Southampton and Manchester due to the logistical difficulties of flying in reinforcements in the time of novel coronavirus (Covid-19).

Uncapped trio of Josh Philippe, Daniel Sams and Riley Meredith will hope to debut in England but Langer said none would be picked for simply being fit and present.

“When it comes to picking our first XI, we’ll still be picking our best XI,” he told reporters in a video call. “That’s how it has always worked well in the Australian team. And for some of the younger guys, if they force their way in through some of their performances in the practice games, that would be great.

“It’ll just be nice to have them and give them a feel for what it’s like to be around the Australian cricket team.”

Langer said internal practice matches would ensure players were ready for the first T20 clash against Eoin Morgan’s England on Sept 4 — Australia’s first international in nearly six months.

Langer further said the axed Usman Khawaja will need to oust either Steve Smith or David Warner to get back into national white-ball side.

The 33-year-old, Australia’s senior batsman while Smith and Warner served one-year bans for ball-tampering from 2018-19, was left out of the squad.

Skipper Aaron Finch is a certain starter alongside opening partner Warner, with Smith locked in at No.3 followed by emerging star Marnus Labuschagne, who enjoyed a prolific year with the bat before the Covid-19 shutdown.

“The way we are going to set up our game plan at the moment is Uzzie [Khawaja] is competing with David Warner, Aaron Finch and Steve Smith at the top of the order,” Langer said. “And at the moment our view is that those guys are getting the nod ahead of him… and that’s why he missed out.

“Marnus is a bit different, he’s batting number four. But he got a hundred in his last game and has had an incredible 12 months.”

All-rounder D’Arcy Short was also overlooked, with Langer admitting it was a straight pick between him and Glenn Maxwell, who is returning after a break to deal with mental health issues.

“Maxwell has taken D’Arcy’s spot mainly because we feel more confident getting overs out of Maxwell at the moment than we do out of Shorty in the middle overs,” the coach said. “But it just goes to show what depth we’ve got when we’re leaving Usman, D’Arcy and guys like Travis Head at home.”

The tour would also be good preparation for selectors to manage players and build depth for what could be a long home summer confined to bio-secure hubs, Langer added.

Meanwhile, Langer looked to movie star Will Smith for inspiration as he readied his team for a tough six months of fixtures.

With the Covid-19 still gripping England, they will play in bio-secure hubs with their movements and contacts strictly limited.

On their return to Australia, the team will go into a 14-day quarantine, with the prospect of further bio-security bubbles a real possibility through the home summer when they are due to host India and Afghanistan. With border closures and coronavirus-related restrictions in Australia, and coronavirus still at large, Langer said challenges were inevitable — and he told his team to follow the lead of ‘Men In Black’ star Smith.

“We might not be able to see our families because we need to keep the show on the road,” Langer said. “Some of our best players might have to miss some international cricket, so they can spend some time seeing families.

“It’s so complicated… we are going to need our depth,” he added, and cited a comment from a Smith interview. “The old Will Smith saying: ‘we’ve got to stay ready so we don’t have to get ready’. Wherever it comes up, we’ll be ready.”

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