England, after two back-to-back victories over India and New Zealand in league stage matches, are gearing up to face arch-rivals Australia in the second semi-final of World Cup 2019 at Edgbaston today.
Before the tournament, hosts England, along with India, were touted by some as unequivocal favourites to lift the cup. No team has burst that illusion quite as magnificently as their Ashes rivals.Australia’s dominating performance at Lord’s, where they beat England by 64 runs in the group stages is still fresh in everyone’s minds, but the five-time champions had announced themselves even before the tournament actually began, triumphing over the hosts by 12 runs in Southampton in the warm-ups.
England, on the other hand, have been inconsistent. They have struggled to chase scores throughout the tournament – their 20-run defeat to Sri Lanka in chase of a modest 233 exemplified that. They will have to hope for a much more solid batting performance from their batsmen should Australia get the chance to bat first yet again.
Australia too have looked a lot more comfortable defending. The two games they lost in the group stages were both while chasing, the second defeat came in their previous game against South Africa, where they fell short of 325 by 10 runs.
That defeat has forced Australia to look at potential changes. Peter Handscomb, who was drafted into the side as a replacement for the injured Shaun Marsh, is confirmed to make his World Cup debut. Matthew Wade has been lined up as a replacement for Khawaja in the squad, who has been ruled out of the tournament with a hamstring strain. Wade has been in terrific form for Australia A, and may be considered in place of the misfiring Glenn Maxwell.
England, as well as finding a way to cope with Starc, will have to contain the run-scoring threat of a powerful Australian top order.
David Warner has scored 638 runs this tournament following the left-handed opener’s return to international cricket after a 12-month ban for his role in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa.But paceman Liam Plunkett insisted England could rise to the occasion.
“We’re a different sort of animal compared to our last teams,” he said. “We’ve played well for the past four years, we’re ranked number one.
“We feel on our day we can beat anyone in the world.”
Australia coach Justin Langer led his squad on a barefoot walkabout around Edgbaston on Monday before they shared stories on the outfield in a so-called “bonding circle”.
“Haydos (Matthew Hayden) and I used to do it as a bit of a ritual before every Test match,” former Australia opener Langer explained.
“If you go back 12 months there wasn’t much to be relaxed and chilled about in Australian cricket, was there? We went through a major crisis in our cricket. It didn’t just affect our cricket, it affected our country.
“We’ve got to work hard on being more humble in what we do and being focused on playing good cricket.”
But despite the coach’s new-age talk, Australia’s Nathan Lyon tried to put pressure on England in typically acerbic style.
“It’s all on them,” the off-spinner said. “It’s their World Cup to lose if you ask me.”
England seem relatively settled coming into the semis on back of two wins against sides like India and New Zealand. But the two recent defeats to Australia might well cancel out any perceived psychological advantage. One can expect a close affair.
England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Steve Smith, Peter Handscomb, Alex Carey (wk), Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Starc, Kane Richardson, Pat Cummins, Jason Behrendorff, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Adam Zampa, Nathan Lyon and Matthew Wade.