The hamstring strain Usman Khawaja picked up on Saturday in the game against South Africa has ruled him out of the World Cup, and out of action for three to four weeks, Australia coach Justin Langer has confirmed. Khawaja picked up the injury while batting in Australia's chase of 326 at Old Trafford, and he came out to bat for a second time after retiring hurt initially, but his team fell short by 10 runs.
"Ussie's got a hamstring strain so he'll be out for probably three to four weeks which is a real shame but we have to work hard on getting him up for the Ashes now," Langer said. "Such a pity for him he's been so integral to how we've been playing. Like Shaun [Marsh] I feel sad for him that he's going to miss the World Cup semi-final."
Langer remained optimistic about Khawaja's prospects for playing in the first Ashes Test at Edgbaston starting on August 1.
"Hopefully he'll be right," Langer said. "It's on the best part of a strain as you can get. It's nothing to do with his tendon, it's as good a strain as you can get basically.
"Conservatively it'll be three or four weeks, and with all the help and the rehab he'll get hopefully he'll be right for the practice game or certainly the first Test."
The other injury concern for Australia ahead of their semi-final against England at Edgbaston is allrounder Marcus Stoinis, who clutched his right side after throwing a ball in from the boundary, and then bowled only three overs on Saturday. Mitchell Marsh joined the Australia squad as cover for Stoinis and will be a like-for-like replacement if they need one.
"And Marcus is the same, got another strain in his other side actually, so we are working through that at the moment and we'll have to make a decision on him in the next 24 to 48 hours," Langer said of Stoinis. "Not in the final XI yet but Matthew Wade is coming up. He's in great form, he's had a great 12 or so months back home, but he's also just scored two hundreds in one-day cricket so he's in great nick. And Mitch Marsh is going to come on standby for Stoinis to see how he comes up.
"It's really strange, isn't it? That someone as fit and as athletic as him is having these strains on both sides. We'll keep investigating that, whether it's just unlucky. I don't know why it's happening, but he's a tough character and he's done well to get this far.
"Of course it's frustrating but it's also the business we're in, it's sport and all the teams have had injuries. You never like to have injuries at any time, let alone at the business end but it's okay, we'll deal with it. I've said all along we'll keep dealing with it, we've dealt with it for the last 12 months. In all circumstances, and as difficult as it is for the boys in the team, we'll deal with it."
Australia will now take stock of their batting options, in particular. If Stoinis is deemed unfit, the inclusion of Mitchell Marsh appears to be the most straightforward substitution to keep the overall balance of the side intact. Apart from the two openers, Langer indicated that the batting positions of Steven Smith at No. 3 or 4 and Alex Carey, who has excelled throughout the tournament, could be shuffled. He also pointed out that recent centuries and the ability to play spin would be factors in weighing up the possible inclusions of Wade and Peter Handscomb, who came into the squad as Shaun Marsh's replacement.
"We'll be really clear and keep sticking to the way we have picked over the time," Langer said. "The top four guys who can score hundreds. Wadey has scored hundreds. We know England will play the leggie in the middle overs [Adil Rashid, and] maybe Moeen [Ali], it depends if he plays or not. Players who can play spin, Pete does that really well. He's been in really good form playing in the middle order for Australia A. He was brutally unlucky to miss out on selection in the first place.
"He's a great person to have in the team, that's why it was so hard to leave him out. We'll weigh it all up. Potentially with Mitch Marsh coming in giving us some medium pace all round. He's been bowling as well, played four Aus A games in pretty good form with bat and ball."
Langer paid tribute to the planning of Pat Howard, the former Cricket Australia General Manager of High Performance, for scheduling an Australia A tour that coincides with the World Cup and the lead-in to the Ashes. It means that not only are replacement players already in England, they are also match-fit and have settled into the conditions. But Langer also acknowledged the challenge of walking into a squad and playing in a World Cup semi-final.
"Yeah, of course it is pressure for anyone. But there is pressure for all 22 guys on the park. Matthew Wade has played a lot of international cricket if he comes in. There's a real upside to him and he is in no doubt career best form. Pete Handscomb a few months ago helped us beat India 3-2 in India in their conditions and then 5-0 against Pakistan in the UAE. His temperament is excellent for it.
"Mitch Marsh has also played a lot of one-day-international cricket. We're really lucky. And I think about this a lot. Guys like Pat Howard should be really applauded for their vision. Imagine if all the boys were in Australia not playing any cricket. Then we'd be nervous. Great vision from CA and Pat Howard, and now to have them as a luxury for us is a real bonus."