For the third time in a month Australia face England, in what some are calling Ashes ODI number three. Australia won the warm-up match, then also won their only match in the World Cup proper, but does it mean that Australia will win their semi-final?
Since then, England has beaten both India and New Zealand, convincingly both times, while Australia lost to lowly South Africa. On top of that, Australia now has the prospect of possibly Usman Khawaja and potentially also Marcus Stoinis being ruled out through injury, and that’s on top of Shaun Marsh being ruled out already and the chance that Glenn Maxwell may yet be withdrawn through injury too. England certainly have form and momentum but does that matter against Australia’s two wins in their head to heads?
The last time England played in a World Cup semi-final was in 1992, when they lost the final to Pakistan. Pakistan’s run this time around was almost identical to 1992, yet they managed to miss the semi-finals due to run rate and New Zealand’s good fortune. So England won’t be losing the final to Pakistan this time around, but they may end up losing it to someone else, either India or New Zealand, assuming that they win this one. Since England’s last semi-final, Australia have won four World Cups (1999, 2003, 2007 and 2015) as well as being the losing finalist once (1996), having won all five of their semi-finals (in 2011 they lost in the quarter-finals). England haven’t lost any semi-finals since then either, but England haven’t played in any. In 2015, when Australia lifted the trophy, England missed out on the quarter finals by losing to Bangladesh in the final group match.
England are the world’s number one team, and are also the holders of the highest ODI score, 481, scored against this same Australian team just a year ago. The difference is that that team was missing Smith and Warner due to a year-long suspension, were resting most of their best bowlers, and were generally depressed. If England expect the same kind of high-scoring easy victory this time around, they are probably mistaken.
England have looked mighty good in this World Cup, though, except for their three losses, against lowly Pakistan, even lower Sri Lanka, and a decent Australian side. In their six victories they have been tremendous, and their last two games has been outstanding, but is that form or just a coincidence?
Jason Roy’s return from a mid-tournament injury has been a major boost to the team, as he has combined with Jonny Bairstow at the top of the order in tremendous fashion, while Ben Stokes has returned to his very best awe-inspiring form, and new player Jofra Archer has been outstanding. There aren’t many holes in their outfit, other than the form of Eoin Morgan, though that innings where he hit 15 6s suggests that he isn’t exactly out of form.
For Australia, they boast the leading wicket taker Mitchell Starc, some six wickets ahead of seconnd best. They also have the leading run scorer David Warner, both in with a shot of winning the player of the tournament award, as is fellow opener and captain Aaron Finch. While he hasn’t done a whole lot, Steve Smith has looked in good form too, while the big-hitting potential of Glenn Maxwell has been truly terrifying. Wicket keeper Alex Carey, on top of being the best wicket keeper on display, has also had some great batting performances, while Pat Cummins has been joined by Jason Behrendorff to form a great bowling performance.
They are two sides who look evenly matched on paper, but with cricket it isn’t just fought out on the field, as the mind games are very relevant. England’s fans are bound to boo Smith and Warner and cry foul if anything goes right for Australia, especially if it involves either of those two, and hostilities will be relevant. How well Australia adjust to the possible absence of Usman Khawaja, let alone Marcus Stoinis, will be key too. Potentially we could see Matthew Wade thrown into the team at the last moment, alongside potentially Mitchell Marsh.
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Five Fearless Predictions:
(1) David Warner will fire
He has the potential to be the leading run-scorer, the player of the tournament, and someone who isn’t booed. It’s a very different David Warner we are seeing, who has put a much higher price on his wicket, with less risky shots but a lower strike rate, and a beard! He’s been so consistent this tournament and looks set to get another big one.
(2) Mitchell Starc will fire
The leading wicket taker was earlier in a tussle with Jofra Archer and Mohammad Amir for top spot but has now shot ahead and has now taken more wickets than he did in 2015 when he won the player of the tournament award. Pretty good for someone who was out of form. It seems that the return of Smith and Warner has improved him significantly, or perhaps it’s the World Cup stage that has done it. Come the semi-finals expect him to go even better.
(3) Ben Stokes will shine
This guy has been the rock that England has built around, and he will continue to do well.
(4) England will win
I hate going against my own team, let alone my own country, but it just looks like England will do it. They have all of the form and the momentum and also Australia have injuries at just the wrong time.
(5) Jofra Archer will fire
England’s secret weapon has been revealed: the guy who should have been playing for the West Indies has been the difference between England and every other team, and it looks to be enough to get England home.