As India and New Zealand battle each other (and the rain) for a spot in the final my focus moves to arguably the tougher of the two semis as England and Australia face off to get to the big event at Lords on Sunday
SETTING THE SCENE
England entered the tournament as the overwhelming favourites yet have had a patchy campaign. After a good opening win over South Africa the hosts slumped to a shock defeat to Pakistan. The English lost the services of Jason Roy for a number of games and were also left scratching their heads as to what exactly was their best bowling lineup. The Poms finished with six wins and three losses but ended the tournament with two crucial victories against India and New Zealand when it was needed most.
Australia were cruising toward a top of the log finish (and what can only be described as the easier road to the final) until they got toppled by an unexpected Protea rally. That last match loss left the Aussies having to settle for second spot overall with seven wins and two losses.
In the previous meeting between these teams Australia comfortably had the beating of the English.
LET’S TALK TACTICS
Australia might have come unstuck against South Africa but I still believe them to be most well balanced outfit in the tournament. With the bat they have a top order who are in good touch. They have Carey who has been in scintillating form as lower order finisher and in Behrendorff, Cummins and Starc they have a top quick trio. England will have a tough time limiting the Aussies and will need Archer to strike early. Bowling wise the fifth option of Stoinis/Maxwell will have to be taken on by the likes of Morgan.
England have looked a different team with Jason Roy back at the top. In Roy, Bairstow and Root the host have a top 3 that sets them up for success. Whilst Morgan and Buttler have only pitched up once Stokes has been at the top of his game with the willow. It will be crucial for England to have a better finish with the bat than they have mostly had thus far in the tournament. Bowling wise all but Archer have proven erratic and unreliable at times. Australia will look to get on top of Rashid as well as the likes of Plunkett and Wood when they bowl again later in the innings.
HOW I SEE IT PLAYING OUT
We haven’t seen the best of some real game changers like Maxwell and Buttler. On this big occasion I have a feeling that one or both could come to the party this time around. Conditions should be good for batting and the shortish square boundary at Edgbaston could see plenty balls clear its ropes.
Bangladesh and India combined for 600 runs here whilst England and India chalked up 643. I reckon this trend will continue between two strong batting units.
With Khawaja gone we will surely finally see Steve Smith step up to the plate at number three. No one will be more desperate than the ex Aussie skipper to bury some ghosts – I’m expecting a huge effort from him.
Looking down the Top England Batsman markets Ben Stokes just looks too big for a player batting at number five, in fantastic form and playing against a strong opponent (which means Starc et al could rip through a few early wickets).
Lastly the pressure will be weighing heavily on England and they’ve hardly had the smoothest of runs thus far. The moment could just prove to be too big for them and despite an injury or two I like the balance and general form of this Australian side at present.
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Enjoy the cricket and happy punting!