On Thursday 1st August, The Ashes starts at Edgbaston. The world’s biggest test series between England and Australia is always one worth waiting for and this year will be no different. However, in a different format, it gets a bit of an early start as thanks to a final day twist in the Cricket World Cup, Australia and England will now clash in the 2nd semi-final on Thursday 11th July and yes you have guessed it Edgbaston is the venue, 3 weeks earlier than scheduled. Oh how the cricketing gods work.
SOUTH AFRICAN INFLUENCE
It is funny how fate sometimes works. South Africa opened the tournament against England on May 30th and were beaten by over 100 runs, even with Imran Tahir getting a wicket with only the second ball of the tournament. The Proteas, who at this stage could not qualify for the final four, were then involved in the last match of the round robin phase, playing the Australians, who knew that only victory would secure top spot and a semi-final at Old Trafford against New Zealand. Tahir also struck early in this match, however this was in an Australian chase of 325 and they never fully recovered and eventually succumbed by 10 runs, hence India overtook them at the head of the standings and a trip to Birmingham to face the hosts was now the next assignment. How apt it was the team that the Aussie’s sandpapergate cheating was uncovered against have put them into a trickier semi-final than they would have wanted.
ENGLAND BACK FROM THE BRINK
Just over a week ago England’s World Cup campaign was in the last chance saloon. They had a must win match with then unbeaten India on 30th June, which they won thanks to winning the toss, Jason Roy’s return to open the batting and racking up a 300+ score with a century from Jonny Bairstow. They still had to beat New Zealand in their next match to guarantee semi-final qualification and thankfully thanks to winning the toss AGAIN and opening the batting again (and another Jonny Bairstow 100) – 300+ runs were racked up again and defended. The embarrassment of not making the last four was not going to occur and the minimum target was achieved. Scarily the first time England had made the semi’s of a World Cup since 1992, a shocking record to be honest, but one that can be forgotten about for now, phew.
AUSTRALIA HAVE PLENTY
Credit where credit is due, England have shown real character to get out of the mire they were in and will be very grateful to be in the semi-final. Australia were on a run of 5 straight victories (including defeating the hosts at Lords) before South Africa beat them. They have looked solid in this tournament with runs galore for captain Aaron Finch (507) and David Warner (638) in the opening slots setting a foundation that few teams have managed to deal with. The other big string to the Australian bow is their bowling attack, especially Mitchell Starc (26 wickets so far and counting) who seems to come on and just get wickets, his yorker is devastating, the only good news is he is restricted to just 10 overs. Sadly though with supporting acts such as Cummins and Behrendorff there is little let up.
HISTORY FAVOURS THE VISITORS
Whilst it is fair to say that England most definitely have the recent momentum with their 2 must win game victories, it needs to be put on the record that Australia are 5 times World Champions (England ZERO by the way) and current holders, they have been there and done it, the hosts have not and for me the pressure is rightly on Eoin Morgan’s team. Another worry is that the current champions have NEVER lost a semi-final in the Cricket World Cup, when they get this far, they have always made it to the final match, even when they tied their match at the last 4 stage, the epic 1999 match against South Africa,they went through because of head to head. The plan for the English will be to break that record and make sure that their cousins from the southern hemisphere taste defeat at this stage for the first time in their history in this competition
EPIC CLASH TO COME
So it comes down to 100 overs in England’s second city. Sadly as is always the case with the weather over here, it may well have a say but there is a reserve day for the game. This may make decisions over what to do at the toss a bit trickier than the usual bat first and rack up a high score and usually win which as been a regular occurrence in this World Cup. Going into the match Australia do have a few injury concerns, Usman Khawaja is already out of the competition due to a hamstring injury and Marcus Stonis has a side issue. England are fully fit as far as we know. Maybe the stars are aligning for the hosts and it will be their day. I remember back to the classic Ashes test at the same venue in 2005 when for me the most important thing and one of the biggest reasons why England won that test match and the Ashes, was Glenn McGrath standing on a ball in the warm up and injuring his ankle, he missed that test and we all know how that summer ended. I can see the same happening again,I mean the result, England to find a way to get over the line and then head to Lords for the final, with a whole country right behind them.
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