Tue, 24 Sep 2019

Justin Langer has hit back at criticism of the Australian side's approach during the World Cup and backed his players' form and game plans as they prepare to face England at Lord's on Tuesday.

Australia have lost one game - against India - in their campaign, compared to England's two defeats at the hands of Pakistan and Sri Lanka, but despite this Langer believes the hosts are still favourites.

"Just look at their team," Langer said at Australia's training session at Merchant Taylors School. "Nothing has changed in a week."

"We have seen how they played for four years. They are the best team in the world. I'm not really worried [about] what England are doing. It sounds like a coach's cliche but it is the dead truth. We are concentrating on what we are doing. We are doing okay but we can get better."

A win for Australia at Lord's would heap added pressure on England, who are yet to face the two undefeated sides of the tournament, India and New Zealand, and Langer expects the match to be decided by which team can best deal with their nerves.

"You can look at it two ways," Langer said. "We all have a bit to do. They have three games. They will be tough games but it will be like that in the semi-final. They should be welcoming that. If you are nice and battle hardened, then you might be weary, but you will be ready for the contest. For both teams, it is a good thing. We have England, New Zealand and South Africa, teams we have had good contests with. It is a positive for whoever makes the semis, if they are playing tough cricket going into it.

"This tournament is going to be about who can hold their nerve in the big moments. We have got to concentrate on how we hold our nerve in the big moments. There are going to be plenty of them in the next three games and hopefully the semi-final.

"I have said for 6-8 months, when it comes to a World Cup there is a lot of talk about statistics, but it comes down to match play and we have to play England on Tuesday better than they play us."

Australia have been forced to tinker with their line-up because of a side strain that kept allrounder Marcus Stoinis out for two matches while David Warner has admitted to struggling with fluency despite scoring two centuries and Usman Khawaja appeared to be less comfortable when coming in to bat down the order. And although they have faced questions surrounding the selection and form of some players, they have also ground out some of their wins without necessarily playing at their peak and now sit at No. 2 on the table. Langer was pleased with where they stood in the tournament but expressed his frustration at some criticism.

"It is satisfying," Langer said. "But everyone knows whatever we do people will try to pick holes in it. If Uzzie had not made runs the other day we would have been smashed but he did and nobody said anything. That is life. That is okay. That is the business we are in.

"It is easy being a commentator."

Australia have generally taken a more conservative approach at the start of their innings, particularly with Warner scoring at a slower rate upon his return to ODIs. But Langer pointed to the way his side has improved over the months leading into the World Cup as proof their tactics are working.

"We have a game plan," Langer said. "We just got 381. It has been a long time since Australia got 381. There have been a lot of critics saying we can't do that. But I have maintained for a long time that if we stick to our game plan and conditions are right we will be ok. We have done that for the last six months or so and hopefully we will keep doing that."

In Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins, Australia have one of the most potent new-ball attacks in the tournament but Langer was nevertheless wary of England's batting prowess, particularly in the form of Jos Buttler.

"Jos Buttler is an unbelievable player. I love watching him bat. I hope he gets a duck in this game obviously, but I saw him at Somerset and he is an unbelievable athlete and an incredible finisher. He is the new Dhoni of world cricket. We know we will have to be on our game. But they have a number of players. Stokes, Morgan, even Woakes at the end smacks them over point all the time and pulls well. They have a very strong batting unit and we will have to be right on it."

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