Langer is hopeful that Steve Smith will return to his side, having missed two games following a blow to the head in training, for Wednesday’s deciding ODI at Old Trafford to bolster a batting order that lost seven for 22 to lose from an almost impossible position as England levelled the series on Sunday.
Smith “will 100 per cent have a bat [on Tuesday]” at training and is set to return to the XI for Marcus Stoinis. Langer said Smith is “definitely tracking in the right direction and we are hopeful he will be right”.
Langer admitted that when Australia were cruising in Sunday’s chase, he considered handing opportunities to some of the more callow members of his squad, such as Josh Philippe and Tasmanian tearaway Riley Meredith, in the final match, but would now have to pick his strongest side.
For England, Mark Wood, who missed the second ODI with an ankle injury, trained today and is likely to return tomorrow, probably in place of Sam Curran. On a fresh pitch, world
champions England will be desperate to keep up their impressive winning run in ODI series. They have not lost one at home since 2015.
Australia have thrown away winning positions against England in all three formats over the past 13 months: first in the Ashes Test at Headingley last August; then with collapses in the opening T20 of this tour (when they needed 39 from 38 balls and lost); and finally on Sunday.
“I don’t think there’s a mental fragility,” said Langer. “These things happen. The hardest thing in cricket is hitting the winning runs. Your mind starts wandering to getting the job done, but the job is to hit the winning run. Got to keep focusing on the next ball. I’m very confident in our players that they are strong and developing and getting better.
“We were chasing under lights on a worn wicket. It was challenging and we weren’t up to the challenge. We’ve got a very good team, very good players, and are showing in most of the cricket we are playing that we are up to the fight. I don’t think they are linked at all. The boys were incredibly disappointed the other night and during the T20 series.”
Langer (below) also addressed criticism of their failure to take the knee on this tour from West Indies legend-turned TV commentator Michael Holding, who described captain Aaron Finch’s explanation as “lame”.
England took the knee in the series against West Indies and Ireland, but have not against Pakistan and Australia.
“Michael Holding is one of the great people of world sport, and certainly our game,” said Langer. “When someone like Michael says something like that, it’s certainly important we all listen to it.
“In terms of taking the knee, to be completely honest, we could have talked more about it leading up to that first game. There was so much going on leading up to us getting here, maybe we should have thought and talked a bit more about it.
“What we do talk about within the team is that we want a response that is sustained and powerful.”