Eoin Morgan wants his England side to embrace the fact they are “living the dream” of a World Cup semi-final against Australia.
Occasions do not come much bigger for England cricketers – though a Lord’s final on Sunday would fit the bill should they win at Edgbaston – and the captain fully appreciates the scale of the opportunity.
“Sometimes I’m guilty of it, you can lose sight of the position you’re in and the fact you’re living your dream,” said Irishman Morgan.
“I think it’s possible to play with a smile on your face tomorrow.”
Asked if his side were feeling excited, nervous or simply focused on the task at hand, he said: “All of those things. But I think excitement probably should be the dominant one.
“Everyone is excited to play this semi-final. The fact that through the group stages getting to this stage looked unlikely, or was called into question, makes it even more exciting for us.”
Morgan’s side have a good recent record against Australia, winning 10 of the last 11 ODIs between the old rivals prior to this tournament.
That counted for nothing in the group stages, when Australia claimed a 64-run win at Lord’s.
Morgan admits England were not themselves in that match, knocked off course by a tame defeat to Sri Lanka, but feels they are now back to their best.
“We’re probably more confident than we were three games ago, we’re a different team,” he said. “The loss against Sri Lanka hurt us. I don’t think we were playing anywhere near our best cricket, there was a hangover from the Sri Lanka game. It feels like we’re back to the team we are.”
Meanwhile, Aaron Finch played down the relevance of Glenn Maxwell’s absence on the eve of the semi-final but Australia are still pondering a huge selection gamble.
Maxwell used to be known as “the Big Show” but he was a no show at his team’s final net session yesterday.
It was an optional workout, and the 30-year-old was not the only player to sit out, but it fuelled suggestions that Australia were set to axe him in favour of Matthew Wade
The ICC confirmed Wade’s place in the squad as an injury replacement for Usman Khawaja less than 24 hours before the match but he is reportedly under consideration for a first cap since October 2017. That would represent a massive risk but Maxwell is vulnerable after managing just 155 runs in nine innings so far.
“It’s a purely optional training session. You’re reading a bit too much into it,” said Australia captain Finch. “Maxi is someone who probably 50 per cent of the time comes to optional sessions. Most of the bowlers aren’t here, Davey (Warner) isn’t here. We’ll name our side tomorrow at the toss, as usual.”
Justin Langer broke with that practice on Tuesday though, guaranteeing that another injury replacement – Peter Handscomb – would take over from Khawaja in the XI for his first appearance of the tournament. That Maxwell was not offered the same pledge could be telling.
Whatever Langer decides, Finch made clear he would be happy to have Maxwell’s all-round skills at his disposal.
“I think the overall package, the three factors that he brings to the game, is still a very exciting package,” he said.
“I think if you look at his contribution in the field he’s up there with most runs saved… he’s bowled some key overs for us that have allowed us to mix and match our bowlers through them middle overs.
“As far as the runs, I’m not bothered about that at all because the way he’s batting, the way that he’s going about his innings. Runs are just around the corner.”
The defending champions are looking for their sixth title and have never lost a semi-final and Finch said: “World Cups are very special, they bring out the best in the best players, so I think that’s why Australia have had a very rich history in World Cups.
“Winning four of the last five has been a great achievement. We are full of confidence but, obviously, England have probably been the front-runners in world cricket over the last four years.”