Steve Smith in action during training.
Steve Smith in action during training.

Langer turns focus on spin to shore up title defence

THE Australian team is now well settled in their UK training base and putting the squad through their paces - with particular attention early on to dealing with the spin threat posed by a host of World Cup rivals.

Five things we learned from watching the sessions up close:

Usman Khawaja averaged 41.6 runs against pace bowling and 22.6 against spin bowling in January.

But Uzzie is now far better equipped against the tweakers, able to play all around the wicket and reverse-sweep his way to the ropes. Khawaja is firming to bat at No. 3 in the World Cup with the risk of him getting bogged down by spinners in the middle overs starting to fade.

Do not bowl full to Marcus Stoinis.

The straight-hitter only came to the crease late in this training session but punched back-to-back sixes over the bowler's head. Stoinis's powerful straight game is a joy to watch.

Shaun Marsh hits the ball hard and, once he is in, far.

Marsh tonked Steve Smith (who bowled multiple overs in a positive sign for his elbow injury) for a big six and, after a scratchy start, looked the form batsman.

Will it be enough to earn selection for that first World Cup game? Perhaps not.

Steve Smith turns his arm over — injured elbow and all. Picture: CRICKET NETWORK.
Steve Smith turns his arm over — injured elbow and all. Picture: CRICKET NETWORK.

Nathan Lyon bowled a beautiful length and created plenty of little chances.

The red-ball superstar is desperate to make his white-ball lifeline work after narrowly missing World Cup selection in 2015 and using the Sydney Sixers to press his claims.

This is Aaron Finch's team.

The captain twice addressed his players and while it was nothing mind breaking - most likely something as simple as completing the basics and not letting pressure get to you after soaking up a couple of dots - he is quite clearly a respected voice who also leads by example.

Aaron Finch is firmly in charge of this World Cup squad. Picture: CRICKET NETWORK.
Aaron Finch is firmly in charge of this World Cup squad. Picture: CRICKET NETWORK.

… and Finch walked away with bragging rights against David Warner, bowling his good mate for 42.

Finch only has three ODI wickets and so even at training you can bet he enjoyed seeing the ball beat Warner and break the stumps. As for Warner, he is yet to hit a century in England in any form and his ODI average (43.4 to 31) and strike-rate (96.6 to 81) both fall there.