After a difficult start to their World Cup campaign, Australia have recovered well and are peaking at the right time heading into the business end of the tournament, says batter Steve Smith.
Since the back-to-back defeats to India and South Africa in their first two group-stage matches, five-time champions Australia have won five in a row and sit third in the table.
The top four teams will qualify for semi-final spots and another win against Afghanistan on Tuesday at the Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai, will see Australia seal their place in the knockout stages.
Smith praised his side’s form ahead of Tuesday’s clash and said: “You do want to be peaking at the right time in the end, but obviously you need to do enough to make the semi-finals,”
“I think that’d be the beauty of it if we were able to get there. We’re playing some good cricket so hopefully we can have a good day tomorrow, get ourselves in there and give ourselves a chance.”
Afghanistan also find themselves in terrific form going into the game after a three-game winning streak in the competition. With eight points gained so far, a win will take them level with Australia and still in contention for a semi-final place.
Aware of the threat they pose, Smith spoke about the challenge of facing Afghanistan.
“They’ve won some key moments in games against some good teams and clearly their spinners are a big threat, they’re quality bowlers and they’ve got some batters, particularly at the top of the order that are taking the game on and can take it away from you,” said Smith.
“They’re a good side and I think they’ve come a long way in the last five or six years. They’re a tough side and you’ve got to play well to beat them.
“Playing at Wankhede, it’s historically a high-scoring ground, so we’re going to have to play their spinners well tomorrow, there’s no doubt about that.”
Smith has scored 205 runs from Australia’s seven games, not a rich haul by his standards but the right-handed batter feels his best was in store.
“It’s been a little bit disappointing at times. ” Smith said.
“But I still feel like I’m hitting the ball quite well, so hopefully some runs at the back end of the tournament.”
Smith hopeful over fitness
Australia are facing a fitness concern with Smith suffering from a reoccurrence of vertigo in the build-up to Tuesday’s match; something that has affected him on several occasions in the past.
Smith provided an update on his fitness on Monday.
“I’ve had a bit of vertigo stuff for the last day or so. It’s a bit annoying,” he said.
“Hopefully I can get through training and I’m all good. But it’s not a nice place to be.”
“I think I’ll be ok. I’m not feeling great at present. I’ve had a few episodes. I can tell you it’s not a fun space to be in. But I’ll go out and have a hit (at training) hopefully I’m ok.”
Despite speaking to the media on the eve of the Afghanistan clash, Smith looked in visible discomfort during a training session, where he fell to his hands and knees at one stage before leaving the ground with the physiotherapist. This casts further doubt on his availability for Tuesday’s game.
Cummings in great form
Smith also praised Australia captain Pat Cummins, who entered the tournament having led the side in just four matches in the format.
“I think he’s improved as it’s sort of gone on,” said Smith
“He’s got the tempos of the game, he’s understanding the pace of the game a lot more. He hasn’t done it a lot, so he’s sort of working into it. I think he’s done a terrific job after we were particularly 0-2 to get us in the position where we are now.
“He’s doing a great job and yeah, we’re right behind him and hopefully we can play well for him tomorrow.”
Tuesday’s game at the Cricket World Cup sees Australia take on Afghanistan in Mumbai, with Australia looking to secure a semi-final place.
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