ICC World Cup: ‘Head’ache in selection for Australia as opener hits nets before New Zealand clash

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Even while Australia captain Pat Cummins remained vague about the availability of Travis Head and Marcus Stoinis for the World Cup match against New Zealand on Saturday, both players were eager to prove their fitness during a net session on the eve of the match.

Head, who had fractured his left hand last month leading up to the World Cup, joined the squad on October 21 but has yet to play in the tournament.

On Friday, Head showed no visible discomfort during his 15-minute hit in the nets, and he also bowled some gentle off-spinners.

Stoinis, who missed the game against Netherlands due to a sore calf, joined the session later and warmed up by bowling medium-pace with a shortened run-up.

After a lengthy discussion with Australia head coach Andrew McDonald, Stoinis also had a bat in the nets and faced throwdowns from spin coach Daniel Vettori.

With Australia’s frontline bowlers absent except for Cummins’ brief burst in the beginning, a significant portion of Head’s net session consisted of facing Sean Abbott’s medium pace and Marnus Labuschagne’s off-spin.

David Warner, Josh Inglis, and Glenn Maxwell prepared for Mitchell Santner, the tournament’s second-highest wicket-taker, by predominantly taking on local left-arm spinners.

Although Head’s selection in the XI appears to be the team’s top priority, it could pose some challenges for the management.

Since his return to the ODI squad in Pakistan last year, Head has been in excellent form as an opener alongside David Warner, to the point where the team confidently included him in the World Cup squad despite his injury.

However, his return could result in Mitchell Marsh, who had a record-breaking 259-run partnership with Warner against Pakistan, moving down to No. 3, which would push Steve Smith, who prefers to bat at one-drop, lower down the batting order.

In addition to dealing with a reshuffling of the batting order, Australia may also have to sacrifice an all-round option or Labuschagne, who has made valuable contributions in the middle order, in order for Head to make his way back into the playing eleven.

Cummins stated that Smith was willing to do whatever is best for the team and hinted at his move down the order being imminent.

“… Travis has been outstanding over the past 12 months. Mitch Marsh has been outstanding at the top. David Warner is obviously a superstar up there. We believe that’s the best way to set up the team, and we’re really excited about how the batting lineup looks,” he added.

Smith faced a significant amount of spin bowling and throwdowns at the nets and even unleashed a reverse scoop towards the end of his practice session.

Australia is entering the Trans-Tasman rivalry with three consecutive wins and two exceptional batting performances.

Alex Carey, who has provided stability in the middle order, has arguably already lost his spot to the innovative approach of Inglis.

In an era where changes are made quickly, Smith and Labuschagne will be cautious to avoid a similar fate.

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