ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
Pete primed to repeat ODI heroics
Recalled batsman confident he can follow on from the success that made him one of the world's form ODI batsmen in first half of 2019
Louis Cameron in Birmingham
11 July 2019, 08:53 AM AEST
Peter Handscomb's progression from a "limited" nurdler to crafty 360-degree batting threat has Australia certain the prodigiously-talented batsman can handle the heat of their World Cup semi-final against England.
Handscomb played hide-and-seek while babysitting Shaun Marsh's three-year-old son Austin this week but, with coach Justin Langer guaranteeing the Victorian's spot in the XI for the knockout clash, there will be nowhere to escape the spotlight at Edgbaston on Thursday.
After an up-and-down few months that saw him lose his Test spot, gain a foothold in a resurgent 50-over side, get married, then get squeezed out for the World Cup, Handscomb has bolted in for one of the biggest limited-overs games Australia have played in recent memory.
The 28-year-old has looked at home since he departed the Australia A tour in Brighton and made the five-hour drive to Manchester with his wife Sarah in the dead of night in a rental car filled to the brim with his cricket gear.
He even looked after Marsh's two children, Mabel and Austin, on Tuesday as a birthday present to the injured batsman who he had replaced in the 15-man squad.
"We thought we'd offer our babysitting services so that Shaun and (his wife) Bec could go out for a nice romantic dinner and not have to worry about the kids," Handscomb told cricket.com.au.
Captain Aaron Finch, who first alerted Handscomb by text message that a late call-up could be on the cards, has seen the right-hander make major strides in his limited-overs game.
"His improvement has been early in his innings in particular," said Finch, whom Handscomb now captains at Victoria. "He's someone who rotates the strike really well and doesn't allow bowlers to bowl over after over at him, which is a real key ingredient of being a successful middle-order player.
"When he first started for Victoria, he might have been slightly limited in terms of getting off strike.
"But his game now – he's a 360-degree player, very good against the quicks, extremely good against spin. It's a real class player we've got at our disposal."
Labelled "brutally unlucky" to miss selection in Australia's initial Cup squad, Handscomb has previously admitted he had doubts over whether he would play ODI cricket ever again before being recalled earlier this year.
Having impressed when thrown into the Test team against South Africa in 2016, he graduated to the ODI side a few months later but then spent over a year on the outer after losing his spot the following summer.
His return came as something of a surprise. Axed, again, from the Test team during Australia's series defeat to India, Handscomb was then whisked back into an ODI outfit earlier this year that had lost six series on the trot and looked like a shell of the team that had won the 2015 World Cup.
The selection proved shrewd, with Handscomb hitting two half-centuries in a three-match campaign against India at home that Australia insisted, despite being on the wrong side of the series ledger once again, was the start of something significant.
They proved it in the return leg in India and Handscomb delivered in the crunch. Down 2-1 in the five-game bout in Mohali and needing the biggest run chase in their ODI history, he struck his maiden century to lead Australia to victory. The side then went undefeated through their ensuing series in the UAE against Pakistan.
"When you look at the last Indian and Pakistan ODI series against some great attacks, he was able to get some good runs at a good rate as well on some pretty good wickets and some difficult wickets at times as well," Finch continued.
"So that's a real positive that someone as skilful and as classy as Pete is ready to go."
Handscomb, rated as one of the country's best players of spin, admitted the series was a boost to his own self-confidence.
"Every time you take that next step up and go to the next level you're trying to get that self-belief that you belong there," he explained this week.
"That little period against India and Pakistan in the UAE helped me believe in myself more than anything.
"Now I can back my skills and back my preparation and know that I have done it so I can continue to make runs."
Finch planned to spend the eve of the match watching new-release film 'The Queen's Corgi', while England's squad members will play Xbox or golf according to skipper Eoin Morgan, who urged his team not to treat Thursday's match any differently to any other game.
It's a notion Handscomb also subscribes to.
"Just going with the same mindset that I've had for the last couple of years," he said. "Hopefully I'll do something towards winning the match."
2019 World Cup
Australia's squad: Aaron Finch (c), Jason Behrendorff, Alex Carey (wk), Nathan Coulter-Nile, Pat Cummins, Peter Handscomb, Usman Khawaja, Nathan Lyon, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa
June 12: Australia beat Pakistan by 41 runs
June 15: Australia beat Sri Lanka by 87 runs
June 20: Australia beat Bangladesh by 48 runs
June 25: Australia beat England by 64 runs
July 14: Final, TBC v NZ, Lord's
Sync Australia's World Cup schedule to your calendar HERE
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE