Australia skipper Steve Smith is anxiously waiting to see how his young Australian squad cope up with the pressure of knockout cricket.
Australia will face West Indies in Barbados on Wednesday in a virtual semi-final of the ongoing ODI tri-series.
Victory will confirm their berth in the series-deciding final, also at Kensington Oval, next Monday and another defeat will mean the World Cup holders head home.
Meanwhile, Jason Holder’s West Indies are also in a similar boat. While a defeat will not technically throw them out of the competition, they will then have to win against South Africa by a bonus point, a task that seems tough on paper.
David Warner’s broken finger has forced the Australian team in transition even more without the needed international experience in tough situations.
Steve Smith is one of the six players remaining from the squad which thrashed New Zealand in the 2015 World Cup final.
The confident skipper, who ahead of the series mentioned having one eye on next year’s Champions Trophy, realizes that high-stakes games like this are some invaluable experience for his relatively inexperienced team.
“It’s always nice to play in finals or to have things that replicate finals, to bring out high-pressure situations,” Smith said earlier this week, prior to a washed-out clash with South Africa.
“Seeing how the guys respond to those situations is going to be important for us as well.
“I know the guys want to be in the final, they want to win this series.”
Smith further said high-octane games always bring out the best in Australia, who now on the brink of suffering back-to-back ODI series defeats after they were trumped by New Zealand in February this year.
James Faulkner is seemingly a good example. Faulkner was even crowned man-of-the-match in the 2015 World Cup final, having busted the encounter wide open with a haul of 3-36.
The allrounder, who detailed how it hurt to be left out of the XI earlier in the series, was comfortable with the tournament boiling down to two matches.
“If we don’t win tomorrow we don’t deserve to be in the final,” Faulkner said.
Selectors have all but selected their side for the important game, with the only question remains whether legspinner Adam Zampa or paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile claims the final spot.
Scott Boland played instead of the pair in the wash-out against South Africa but was visibly the only quick to bowl in the nets.
Australia’s batting was a drastic let-down in their last completed fixture, against the same West Indies, in St. Kitts. They were once cruising along, only to falter in the final third of their innings and put on board a total which wasn’t out of bounds for the Windies batsmen.