ICC World Cup semi-final
Australia: 223 all out (Smith 85, Woakes 3/20, Rashid 3/54)
England: 226/2 (Roy 85, Root 49*, Root 45*)
England win by 8 wickets
Cricket has come home for the past six weeks, and now its golden trophy is just one game away from staying here. England will face New Zealand in Sunday’s World Cup final at Lord’s, with both teams aiming to lift the elusive silverware for the first time.
The hosts will arrive in St John’s Wood full of fervour after despatching their Ashes rivals, and of course defending champions, Australia with such disdain here at a rousing Edgbaston that dare we say it … it was almost Aussie-esque.
That was no more prevalent than in the 16th over of England’s run chase. With the “Blues Brothers” Jason Roy (85) and Jonny Bairstow (34) striking sweet tones and in full rhythm once more, biting chunks out of Australia’s paltry 223 all out with all the gusto of a reveller smashing away at a kebab after a night out here on Broad Street, Australia chanced their arm with Steve Smith’s part-time leg spin in search of that elusive breakthrough.
Smith’s first two balls – interspersed with a wide - were treated with caution. That was probably the respect the former Baggy Green captain earned after his golden arm accounted for Colin de Grandhomme first ball in an earlier clash against the Black Caps.
Roy’s patience, though, comes in small doses. And that’s when he let rip in the crudest fashion possible. Desperate to make up after missing the Lord’s defeat to the Aussies through injury, Roy begun an assault that should have contained an age-restriction such was its crude brutality.
The South African-born opener bludgeoned three successive maximums – all straight towards the press box – with Brummie locals suggesting the third strike that ultimately landed on the stand’s top tier as the biggest six this ground has seen in its time.
There was no recovery for Australia from there. They have might taken a couple of wickets, including Roy’s much to his irritation after he clearly missed the ball, further on to delay England’s march to Lord’s, but that was the moment Justin Langer’s team was dethroned.
Some would even suggest that it was much earlier already, on the stroke of 11am, when Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer had reduced the Aussies to 14/3 at the start of the seventh over. In that engrossing period when England’s new-ball bowlers were controlling the white ball under grey Birmingham skies like they were snake charmers. Australia lost it own dynamic opening pair Aaron Finch (0) and David Warner (9), along with newbie Peter Handscomb (4). Considering Warner (647 at average of 71.88) and Finch (507 at average of 50.70) have contributed 1154 runs to Australia’s campaign, it certainly was a killer blow losing the dangerous duo that early.
There was brief respite when Smith (89) and Alex Carey (46) battled defiantly to put together a 115-run stand for the fourth wicket, but Australia continued to make the cardinal sin of losing wickets in clusters.
Local Warwickshire boy Woakes was England’s hero with the ball, finishing with 3/20, while leg-spinner Adil Rashid, who was magnificent in the middle overs, bagged 3/54 to dismiss the Aussies before the completion of their 50 overs.
Roy and Bairstow ensured their were to be no flutters in the England dressingroom with a typically explosive 124-run opening stand before Joe Root (49*) and captain Eoin Morgan (45*) completed the eight-wicket rout.
With an equally buoyant New Zealand laying in wait London after they sent shockwaves all through the subcontinent by knocking out tournament favourites India just a couple of days ago, it’s all set for battle royale, innit?