With the possible exception of India v Pakistan, there is no bigger rivalry in cricket than England v Australia – and fate has thrown them together again as they clash in the second 2019 Cricket World Cup Semi Final, being played at Edgbaston, Birmingham on Thursday (July 11th).
The teams have taken varying routes to the last four – Australia, bar their last game loss to South Africa with their place already assured, have been comfortable throughout. England, anything but. They needed successive wins against India and New Zealand to ensure their passage through after three group stage losses to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and – crucially – Australia.
But the host nation and pre tournament favourites did win those two highly pressured games and, with the return of Jason Roy after injury, looked the outfit that many people felt were the team to beat in this World Cup. However, there is never an easy game against Australia, and England will know they will be in for a huge battle if they are to reach the final at Lords on Sunday (July 14th).
So what does each team need to do, or happen, to prevail?
WHAT ENGLAND NEED TO DO TO BEAT AUSTRALIA
Play aggressively and believe.
England have, on many occasions, rather choked and not delivered when it has mattered, especially in knockout phases of tournaments. Their failure to win a World Cup to date backs that up – especially when on at least two occasions they could…should...have lifted the trophy (1987 vs Australia and 1992 vs Pakistan). Now, skipper Eoin Morgan has every weapon needed to do what all other English teams have failed to do – deliver on the big stage. Explosive, hard hitting, quick scoring batsmen like Jason Roy (above), Morgan himself, Ben Stokes and Jos Butter. Classy, technical batsmen who can occupy the crease and alternate the bat – Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow. Strike bowlers in Mark Wood, Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes, with good spin options in Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid. But already in this tournament – and as lesser teams than the Aussies have shown – especially Pakistan and Sri Lanka, when the pressure has been applied, England – especially with the bat – have faltered. They MUST believe and not fall apart when the Australians, as they surely will, put the squeeze on England. They will want to bat first and on one of their favourite ODI grounds, put a target on the board to defend. England CAN beat Australia – but hearts, as well as heads, need to strong, firm and assured. Take the game to the Aussies and win this game bravely.
WHAT AUSTRALIA NEED TO DO TO BEAT ENGLAND
Pressure England and take full advantage.
The Australians, for once, have come into this tournament with no real delusions of grandeur and have flown somewhat under the radar. But they quickly established themselves as a force to be reckoned with in this tournament, with, arguably, the batsman of the tournament so far (David Warner) and the best bowler (Mitchell Starc) (pic above) , heading a hugely talented group that only lost a group game to India, before their last game loss to South Africa where their place in the Semi Finals were already assured. Australia have looked the part. Strong and aggressive with the bat, hostile with the ball, and outstanding in the field, they have shown few weaknesses and have suffocated teams whether setting a target or chasing one down. They will take confidence from their group game victory over England and know they can pressure the hosts and force them into mistakes, whether from their explosive opening batsmen or their predatory bowling corps. Usman Khawaja has gone down with injury, but the Aussies have options in replacing him with Peter Handscomb or, more likely, Matthew Wade. They likely wont miss a step. Skipper Aaron Finch will lead from the front and fire his players up to take the game to England and trust his troops to deliver their own high standards – and pile the pressure on the hosts who have much more to lose than their old enemy.
It will be a fascinating clash. Edgbaston has been used four times – with the last two games the teams batting first posting big 300+ totals and then defending them with relative ease, with the pitch getting slower as the day has gone on. Whoever wins the toss will very likely bat first and want to put runs on the board – then trust in two splendid bowling attacks to bring the game home.
It should be a cracker – but we see AUSTRALIA giving England yet more Semi Final heartbreak in a major sporting tournament.