England batsman Joe Root
England batsman Joe Root shaping up to play a cut shot during a training session ahead of the semi-finals against Australia at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Tuesday. Image Credit: Reuters

Manchester: England’s star man Joe Root is hoping to draw confidence from their past record to stop their arch-rivals Australia in the blockbuster semi-final on Thursday.

“If you look at the past 11 games against them, we have won nine. Over the last four years, these guys and this group, and their experience against Australia have been very positive and they have got a lot of success in the bank.”

Though Root says that there is lot of confidence in the bank, what is important is if they are able to use it in Birmingham to make the final since 1992. “I don’t see that as a big worry for this group. We will be drawing on that confidence that over a long period of time now we have been successful against Australia and we should take that into Thursday,” he said.

The most encouraging factor for England has been the form of their openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow. “I feel we are in a good place coming into it. Actually, the last two matches have almost been like knockout cricket for us. We have been playing in a high-pressure environment for a while now and, hopefully, that will hold us in good stead going into this game.”

Does it bother his team that Australians are the defending champions? “It doesn’t matter [who are the favourites]. It comes down to who plays their best cricket on the day. If we play like how we have the last two games, I see ourselves as a very difficult side to play against.”

If one were to categorise a team, Root believes that what should be looked at is the form of the players. “You can look at form, statistically who is stronger, but it all comes down to who handles the day better, who plays the stronger cricket for the longest period and who will stand up and be victorious at the end of it.”

Root also knows that Australian pacers Mitchell Starc and Jason Behrendorff can be lethal. “They bowled extremely well with the new ball. It is about understanding that they will be the main threat early on, and that the ball will be swinging as well. But if we are able to combat that and make a good start, then we give ourselves a better chance. We have also seen that we can score quite well if they don’t get it right. So we must be very objective about it, and clear on how our approach should be. That will be very important.”

The Australian team, meanwhile, experimented with training barefoot at Edgbaston. Australian coach Justin Langer made his players walk around the outfield barefoot as he believes barefoot walk improves bonding in the squad. This technique is dubbed “barefoot healing” and “earthing”, and the practitioners of this method include New South Wales’ State of Origin Rugby team.

Langer believes that it is a process of harnessing the earth’s natural energy. Players are asked to remove their socks and shoes and sit in a circle and talk about their feeling of playing in a semi-final.

Peter Handscomb, who replaced Shaun Marsh, who had broken his arm while playing Pat Cummins in the nets, was made available for the media after training and he threw more light into this training process before talking about himself. “It is a great feeling when the grass touches your feet. It’s bit of grounding,” explained Handscomb.

“It’s also a nice feeling when you walk round with the group and have a bit of a laugh. It’s something the coach has done before at other venues for a bit of grounding. You do that lap and then you are able to get all the different views from the ground and where you might be fielding. That gives you an opportunity to take it all in before it all starts on Thursday.”

Handscomb is delighted to be back in the side after he was dropped from the initial squad for the World Cup, and is now excited at the prospect of playing in the semi-final. “For me, I’ve played so many World Cup semi-finals and finals in the backyard with my mates while trying to be different guys as a kid. And now to actually come out here is great. It’s about knowing what is required of me and then treating it as any other game, going in with the same mindset I have had for the last couple of years and, hopefully, do something towards winning the match.”