The final call for World Cup auditions is approaching as Darren Lehmann and fellow national selectors mull their squad for the one-day tournament.
The pressure will be on the co-hosts to regain the trophy they held for over 10 years, having handed it over in 2011 when India thwarted Australia’s hopes of winning four World Cups in a row.
That applies to hamstrung captain Michael Clarke and his teammates, but also Lehmann and chief selector Rod Marsh as they decide the first-choice XI for elimination games in March.
First comes the World Cup squad, to be named in early January.
The ongoing five-match series against South Africa will be the last chance for those on the cusp of the squad to impress in the 50-over format.
“We’re pretty close,” Lehmann said on Tuesday when asked if the World Cup squad had almost been finalised.
“We’re happy with where it’s going … but we’ve got to bat better and make more runs.”
Canberra will host the third clash between Australia and the Proteas, with the series squared 1-1.
Lehmann wouldn’t confirm recent squad additions Pat Cummins and Mitchell Starc would play on Wednesday, but explained he and Marsh would be picking the “best possible XI”.
“It’s an important game,” Lehmann said.
“The wicket looks like an absolute belter … so we’ll settle the line-up tomorrow morning when we get down there. Rodney’s just arrived into Canberra.”
Lehmann agreed the strength of both sides, among the favourites to take out next year’s World Cup, was their bowling attacks.
But having inspected Manuka Oval’s pitch, he suspected Wednesday’s game could be a run fest.
“Both teams will make a few more runs and it’s a case of us batting longer than 41.4 overs,” Lehmann said of a last-start loss by three wickets.
“Guys have been working hard on that and you’d imagine the wicket would probably have less bounce than the WACA.”
South Africa speedster Dale Steyn admitted he, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander would need to think on their feet and get creative on a surface that is expected to offer less bounce and assistance.
Steyn suggested the visitors were keen to make the most of the ongoing series, a World Cup tune-up for a side that have yet to win the trophy.
“This is a good trial run … and we’ve had good success here over the last couple of tours,” Steyn said.
“The last time I used the white ball here was 2008-09.
“But the memories are still fresh in our mind of winning here and doing well.”
Steyn added the most important outcome of the tour would be finding the right “lines and lengths” on Australian pitches.
“Also getting used to the crowd, getting used to the fields and those sorts of things,” he said.
“It’s very important for us to get that kind of experience.”