ICC Men's ODI World Cup 2019
Smith promotion looms in batting reshuffle
Former skipper likely to bat at three as Langer and co ponder best possible top seven for England showdown
Louis Cameron in Birmingham
10 July 2019, 01:10 PM AEST
Steve Smith will likely move up to No.3 for Australia's cut-throat semi-final clash with England, with Aaron Finch backing his captaincy predecessor to replicate his dominant form from the knockout stages of the last World Cup.
While Finch said Matthew Wade would bat in the top-order if selected to play his first ODI in nearly two years, Australia know Smith has a proven track record in big games.
The idiosyncratic right-hander smashed 105 off just 93 balls in the 2015 World Cup semi-final against India, a match-winning knock sandwiched between vital half-centuries in both the quarter final and final that proved critical in Australia claiming their fifth title.
All three knocks came from No.3.
Former England captain Michael Atherton this week questioned why Smith, who has batted at three in two games in this tournament but has mainly batted a spot below Usman Khawaja, has not permanently been at first drop, just as fellow superstars Virat Kohli, Kane Williamson and Joe Root all are for their respective sides.
"That is probably likely, I will be honest," Finch said when asked about Smith moving up.
"He is one of the best players in the world. We saw at the last World Cup, at the business end, a quarter-final, he got 65, semi-final hundred, final 56 not out.
"We will still have to weigh that up, we are doing our due diligence with all our XIs that we hypothetically throw up. We will wait and see but it's a fair chance, no doubt."
After striking a warm-up match century against England and then three half-centuries in the first five games of the tournament proper, Smith's form has turned lukewarm, failing to pass fifty in three of Australia's last four group-stage games.
One of the hardest trainers in world cricket, Smith has faced countless balls in the nets in a bid to arrest the slump.
Australia have enjoyed having the flexibility of sending either Khawaja or Smith in at No.3 in a bid to keep right and left-hand combinations at the crease and Finch stressed they'll stick with their tactical approach for the finals.
"You are still planning and preparing the same as every game we have done this tournament," he said. "Just because it's a knock-out game, a World Cup semi, you don't go away from the formula that has worked really well for you."
But with Khawaja and Shaun Marsh ruled out of the tournament due to injury, and with Peter Handscomb guaranteed to come into the XI to face England, the only way Australia can keep that right-left option open would be for Wade to also be included.
That could spell bad news for Glenn Maxwell, with Finch explaining the bowling of Marcus Stoinis, who is carrying two side strains but passed a fitness test on Tuesday, has made him a valuable commodity.
"When we didn't have him in the side we were quite thin with the ball," Finch said of Stoinis. "That is why the allrounder role is such an important one. He has done a great job with the ball for us for quite a while now and with the bat he has made some crucial runs at times as well.
"He is a really important member of the squad and you can't overlook the point of team balance when you are looking at all of that stuff.
"When you go with Maxwell as your fifth bowler, it can potentially leave you a bit thin, at times.
"I know we did it a couple of games due to circumstances of injury, but it is a tough one to manage at times when you have got a good part-timer as your fifth bowler."
Wade has batted in the lower-order, mainly at seven, for the majority of his 94-game ODI career that was put on pause in September 2017, but has since been recast as an opener in white-ball cricket.
The left-hander was named the standout domestic player of the year in February, while his Australia A teammates have spoken in awe about his remarkable form during his recent blitz of the 50-over leg of their tour in which he smashed two centuries and 355 runs in four innings.
Finch said if Wade played, he'd bat "somewhere near the top".
"When you talk about guys' roles, you look at what his strengths have been and you don't try to change guys' game plans and guys' roles a huge amount to what they've been doing," added the skipper.
"That will be something we talk about over the next 24 hours and see what that looks like and if Matty fits into that XI."
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, Lord's
Sync Australia's World Cup schedule to your calendar HERE
For a full list of all World Cup fixtures, click HERE