Matthew Wade was second on the list of run scorers in the last Sheffield Shield season.
Matthew Wade was second on the list of run scorers in the last Sheffield Shield season.

Wade in: why gun batsman must face England

MATTHEW Wade has been seeing the cherry like a beachball for the past 12-months and would offer Australia a way of matching the explosive power England will bring to their World Cup semi-final.

The conditions, team balance, pitch dimensions and his career best form simply demand that he plays.

Batting the Tasmanian at No. 3 is the surest way of fighting fire with fire, of matching the explosive power England are bringing to the table at a ground, Edgbaston, they grow an extra leg at when they play there.

Australia coach Justin Langer has confirmed that Peter Handscomb, a replacement for reserve batsman Shaun Marsh who broke his arm in a fiery nets session, will definitely be in the XI.

With Usman Khawaja rubbed out due to a hamstring injury, and doubts over Marcus Stoinis, it appeared at first look like an either or choice between the two players drafted in from the touring Australia A squad.

But things move pretty fast in a World Cup campaign.

There is clear logic to finding a place for both men, but the first cab off the rank has to be Wade.

 

Matthew Wade plundered two centuries in four tour matches with Australia A.
Matthew Wade plundered two centuries in four tour matches with Australia A.

Handscomb was the most unlucky man - with the possible exception of Josh Hazlewood - to miss the original squad, but the pecking order that places him top of the reserve list has long since been disrupted anyway.

The selectors have shown a willingness to pick for the situation - think Kurtis Patterson and Jason Behrendorff as recent examples.

This backs-to-the-wall scenario - described by Ricky Ponting as "unprecedented" - is tailor made for Wade.

Following a boom domestic summer in all formats of the game, Wade, by all reports, is in Warner or Smith-esque form in the way he is seeing the ball.

With the Australia A squad in England, he is missing nothing in the nets or out in the middle.

When a player is in this kind of touch you just have to pick him.

Wade has been challenged by selectors for months now, and he continues to put up consistent numbers.

In the last Sheffield Shield season he finished second top scorer behind Marcus Harris. In 10 matches and 20 innings he plundered 1021 runs at an average of 60.05, including two centuries and eight 50s, with a high score of 137.

Scores of 117, 155, 41 and 42 have come across four Australia A tour matches. The low quality of the attacks he faced, with country sides putting out second or even third string players, should not detract from the peerless, consistent nature of his ball striking.

Wade has been training with the World Cup squad the last few days in Birmingham.
Wade has been training with the World Cup squad the last few days in Birmingham.

His mindset and focus has been unwavering, even when it seemed his international career had a line through it.

Wade's motivation and attitude has been as impressive as his stroke play. And hasn't gone unnoticed by the Australian coaches.

"He'll just come in as the official replacement for Usman Khawaja. Like everyone in the squad there's potential for him to play, definitely," Langer said.

"He's a real seasoned pro and he's had an unbelievable 12 months or so in domestic cricket. With his experience, if he plays, then we're confident he'll do a really good job."

On a small ground, and a flat pitch, Wade will take England's quicks on without fear. It's a big ask, but he could be the x-factor Australia needs to overcome its injury crisis.

With Langer mulling over the possibility of dropping the under-performing Glenn Maxwell the new pair of Wade and Handscomb could easily work in tandem to power Australia through to yet another World Cup final.

Whatever team is revealed at the toss, including Wade is priority number one.