Head presses selection claims

Travis Head made a strong case for selection for Australia's opening Champions Trophy game with an unbeaten 85 in their win over Sri Lanka in a warm-up match at the Oval.

Head put on a 75-run partnership for the fourth wicket with Aaron Finch, who made a brilliant 137 as Australia chased down Sri Lanka's 318 with two balls to spare. 

The 23-year-old has made great strides since making his ODI debut in the Tri-series in the Caribbean in June 2016 scoring 744 runs in 22 ODIs.

"It was a good hit out, probably a tighter game than we wanted it to be," said Head after the game. "They dug in pretty well in the end and posted 300, and chasing down, I thought we did beautifully. Finchy at the top of the order was fantastic. To bring it home it was a nice team performance.

"We just had a really nice game plan, we try to spot every ball and try not to leave it right to the end — ended up working out that time — but I feel it was pretty controlled. In parts, it probably wasn’t as controlled as others, but it’s not going to be clean sailing in run chases."

Head was criticized for his failure to make the most of his starts but has shrugged off that label, notching his first ODI hundred against Pakistan in Adelaide on Australia Day earlier this year.

Assessing his own performance, which also included tidy bowling figures of 1 for 13 in three overs, Head said, "I want to win games of cricket, one way or the other, so pleasing to go out there and get a few runs and some time out in the middle."

Being the current ICC World Cup champions has made Australia one of the favourites to win the title in England and Wales, and Head believes the side's experience at the World Cup will benefit it in the coming few weeks. 

"There are some strong teams," he reflected. "We played good tournament cricket back in the World Cup — the experience we’ve got from that and the players that we’ve still got — we’re confident going into the first game. We’ve got to hit the ground running and play really well because we’ve been a little bit inconsistent in some of the last 12 months."

Australia were without skipper Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc and John Hastings in the warm-up game against Sri Lanka, which Head chalked up to the side testing their bench strength. 

Australia will have one more warm-up game, against Pakistan in Edgbaston on May 29, before the management sits down to decide the XI for the opener.

"Smithy had the day off, Starcy and Hasto also, so we’ve got strength in our bench which is always what you want with good teams," he explained. "It’s competition for spots and we’ve definitely got that at the moment, but come game day everyone will be there. We’ve got one more [warm-up] so as we get closer to that first game, the structure will start to come out."

Commenting on the English conditions, something Head is familiar with having played for Yorkshire in the 2016-17 county cricket season, he expected the pitch to play out similarly during the tournament. "Enjoyed it today, sun’s out and blue skies, which is nice," he suggested. "The wicket’s fantastic, probably similar to what they’ll come up with during the tournament. It was nice to get a good look at it."

Australia will take on New Zealand in their opening game of the tournament in Edgbaston on June 2.

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