Justin Langer is confident Australia have the right World Cup game plan despite Sunday’s 36-run loss to India and maintained he is prepared to be flexible in team selection and shuffling the batting line up in Australia’s remaining matches.
Australia’s chase, after conceding 352 runs, was hampered by India’s disciplined and probing attack early on and, when Aaron Finch was run out in the 14th over, Steven Smith was promoted up the order above Usman Khawaja. All three batsmen scored at around a run a ball but with David Warner’s strike rate of 66.66 the mounting required rate forced the lower order batsmen to take increasingly high risks. But Langer believes the loss of three quick wickets later in the innings was the most significant factor.
“Even at the 38-over mark we still had the same amount of runs, so I’m not worried about our game style,” Langer said . “We just lost three wickets in five balls at a stage where they got 113  in the last ten. At The Oval you can get 110 in the last 10 easy. The boys will do it differently. We’re not saying to preserve wickets means you’ve got to block.
“The philosophy is you can’t make runs from the change room and if you look at the data there’s very little difference in the top 10 overs between most teams, but the wickets are important so you can keep building the platform. I’m really confident in our game plan.”
Langer said there was a chance Glenn Maxwell or Marcus Stoinis could be promoted up the order if circumstances dictated a more flexible approach.
“We went left hand and right hand combinations, Steve Smith came in when Aaron Finch came out to hit the spinners,” Langer said . “We’ve got the left-hand right-hand combinations, we’ve got the flexibility to do that. We did it in India. We did it where Glenn Maxwell would come up earlier if we got off to a really good start. That’s where we’re so lucky. I have said it since day one of this campaign, we’ve got so many options, it’s great. And there will be times where Maxi comes in or Marcus Stoinis.”
Australia’s bowling attack struggled to take wickets in an innings that was dominated by a Shikhar Dhawan century and was battered by a late onslaught from Hardik Pandya, who was dropped by Alex Carey on the first ball he faced. Hardik’s 48 off 27 helped India add 116 off the final ten overs, but Langer was upbeat about Australia’s bowling performance.
“We started off brilliantly I thought,” Langer said . “There was some really good stuff. I thought the energy in the first 10 overs, I haven’t seen us buzzing like that. There is nothing better than playing India at The Oval in a World Cup game. The boys’ energy was up. Brilliant stuff.”
“But, yeah, just the things we have been talking about, wickets through the middle overs, wickets in the first ten overs and then how we bowled at the death. It won us the game against the West Indies but we were probably a bit off [against India]. There are areas to improve. We got pretty close. I honestly think it is really good to have a really tough game like that early in the tournament.”
Langer said Australia did consider playing Jason Behrendorff instead of Nathan Coulter-Nile, and added there was a possibility the left-armer could join Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins in the attack at some stage in the tournament. Having two left-arm quicks in the line-up will likely depend on individual match-ups with opposition batsmen.
Australia next play Pakistan whose fortunes have swung dramatically from their opening heavy loss to West Indies to their stunning win over England but, while Australia have given the impression of a side still seeking the strongest combinations and form, Langer was confident the team’s performances will improve as the tournament wears on.
“You’re always searching for the perfect game, you don’t want to have the perfect game now,” Langer said . “We’ve got to keep getting better. We’ve had areas we needed to improve against West Indies, we’ve had areas in the first game we could get better at, certainly [against India].
“We haven’t played the perfect game yet – that’s good. Hopefully we’ll keep getting better and better and the best games will come at some point.”