Hosts England face Australia in the ongoing Cricket World Cup’s semi-final clash
Australia have beaten England in the warm-up as well as the group stage game, but the hosts will want to settle scores in the match where it matters the most.
England seems 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.
Road to the Semi-finals
Best performance – Against England
Australia dug their heels into a groggy England side that came up to face them right after suffering a shocking defeat to Sri Lanka at Leeds. An Aaron Finch century and a Warner fifty set the innings up before Alex Carey’s blitz took them to 285 for 7. For England’s recent standards that should’ve been considered below-par, but Jason Behrendorff stepped out of Starc’s shadow to dismantle one of the finest batting line-ups. He picked up five, one more than his new-ball partner as England folded for 221 despite Ben Stokes’s fighting 89.
Nervy performance – Against India
The only fixture where Finch & Co. looked out of depth was against India. It was one of those games where everything fell in place for their opposition, evident from Dhawan’s excellent century. India’s seamers then did a fine job to tie down the Aussies, catching them short in chase. It was a strange game for David Warner, who was utterly scratchy for his 84-ball 56, while another of Australia’s match-winners – Mitchell Starc – endured a quiet day at the office.
How does the performance graph look?
They may have come into the tournament with a lot of uncertainty, but Australia managed to hit peak form and look like the well-oiled machine that Australia are used to having at World Cups. The defeat to India didn’t lead to a break in momentum as such as they won two before and five after that fixture. They’ll be keen to write off their defeat to South Africa as an aberration, even though it sends them to Birmingham for a semifinal clash against England.
Best player – Mitchell Starc
It’s almost like the last four years never existed. Mitchell Starc is running in like his 2015-self, dishing out yorkers by the dozen and lighting up the stumps. He began the World Cup with a fifer to demonstrate the complete gulf in class between his side and the West Indies, and then bagged his second in a game against New Zealand, denying them in the process in a small chase. In between were two four-fers – best of them coming against the hosts at Lord’s. He’s taken his tally to 24 wickets, and will be licking his lips to exploit the left-armer conducive conditions at Lord’s should Australia make another final.
One for the knockouts – Steve Smith
A lot of Australia’s narrative has revolved around Aaron Finch, David Warner and Mitchell Starc in this World Cup, with the exception of Jason Behrendorff in one game. Steve Smith started well and even has three fifties to his name, but he should the man for the knockouts come July 9. After all, if Starc could rekindle his 2015 self, why should Smith be left behind?
Best Performance – Against India
After seven games in the home World Cup, England were in a spot of bother and desperately needed a win against India. As the coin flipped in their favour, England rode on Jason Roy and Bairstow’s initial assault to carry the side to a challenging score. The match, however, wasn’t won yet. Rohit and Kohli threatened to take the game away but Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes used all their experience to squeeze out a nervy 31-run win.
Nervy Performance – Against Sri Lanka
Things would have been a lot easier for England had they not lost to Sri Lanka in a thriller in Leeds. After the initial loss to Pakistan, England had bounced back well with big wins against Bangladesh, West Indies and Afghanistan. When Sri Lanka managed just 232, England had another game in their grasp but Lasith Malinga stole the show to hand the hosts a 20-run loss. That loss particularly dented England’s confidence and it showed in the loss against Australia at Lord’s in the next game.
How does the performance graph look?
England started with a convincing win over South Africa but were then dented by Pakistan after a narrow loss. England, however, didn’t look too bothered as they downed Bangladesh by 106 runs, West Indies by eight wickets and Afghanistan by 150 runs. The real shocker came in the game against Sri Lanka as they lost by 20 runs chasing a modest total. Australia outplayed them at Lord’s but wins against India and New Zealand ensured a semifinal berth for Morgan and his side.
Best player so far – Ben Stokes
Seven wickets at an economy of under five and 381 runs at an average of almost 55 – the allrounder has chipped in with key performances in crunch games while a lot of the spotlight has been on the likes of Jofra Archer, Woakes, Bairstow and Joe Root. Take the India game for instance, just when India made a superb comeback, he put the target beyond them with a 54-ball 79.
The one for the knockouts – Jonny Bairstow
No doubt about it. A century against India and then another against New Zealand. After drawing a lot of flak for his comments, Bairstow walked the talk and produced match-winning performances when the side really needed it. He’s given the side brisk starts and has helped them get ahead right at the beginning with Roy. Even with an average over 50 and 461 runs in the tournament, he’s stressed he’s hungry for more.
Before the tournament, hosts England, along with India, were touted by some as unequivocal favourites to lift the cup.
No team has burst England’s illusion of being favourites quite as magnificently as their Ashes rivals Kangaroos.