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England vs Australia in World Cup semis: Blockbuster of a match

Aaron Finch described the Australia-England semi-final perfectly: a blockbuster. Two good teams in a relatively small ground with the promise of big scores in front of a capacity crowd. What makes this contest all the more attractive is the form of both teams. Australia started ordinarily, but as the tournament progressed, gained strength like a cyclone and are now ready to crush any team that comes their way.

The inclusion of Jason Behrendorff was a masterstroke and has made the bowling attack much more potent than it was at the start of the competition. England, on the other hand, started superbly, had the worst dip in last three years but eventually managed to salvage the campaign winning two massive games against India and New Zealand. Their batting, which has intimidated bowlers every single time they have batted first, looked their best at Edgbaston against India and that’s what all of England wants to see one more time against Australia.

Michael Clarke, Australia’s 2015 World Cup-winning captain, puts it down to mindset. “You need to enjoy the occasion to win games like this. Enjoy the pressure and learn to use it to your advantage. This is going to be one of the most exciting games of this World Cup with two very good teams who both know what it takes to win on the big stage,” said Clarke. Nasser Hussain, former England skipper, has picked England ahead of Australia. “England should be happy they are playing at Edgbaston and not Lord’s,” said Nasser before adding, “England has played two good games and in conditions that you will get in Edgbaston, Australia’s swing bowlers will be less effective than they would have been at Lord’s. I will pick England ahead of Australia but only just,” he concluded. Clarke, interestingly, tends to agree with Hussain to an extent. “England will be full of confidence playing at a venue they enjoy and with two big wins in their last two games have the momentum going into this big semi-final. Smaller boundaries at Edgbaston help their style of play with (Jason) Roy and (Jonny) Bairstow at the top and that’s what they will want to exploit at the start of their innings. Australia, on the other hand, had a tough defeat to South Africa in their last game and have an injury concern with Usman Khwaja. Having said that, Australia have beaten England in the two encounters in this campaign (practice game and the round robin game) so that will give them a lot of confidence. Most importantly, both teams will want to bat first and put runs on the board. That’s perhaps the most important thing in this semi-final making the toss that much more significant.”

While it is foolish to make a prediction in cricket and more so in a contest like this, the team that picks up wickets upfront will win the game. Both sides are top heavy. It has to be either David Warner and Aaron Finch for Australia or Bairstow and Roy for England to lay the platform. And each of the four mentioned have been in stellar form this tournament. That’s where the likes of Mitchell Starc and Jofra Archer become crucial. They need to stand up and make the difference in Edgbaston. Whichever side is able to pick early wickets and push the other team back will get ahead. While it is true that Steve Smith is due and Ben Stokes and Eoin Morgan have shown glimpses of extraordinary batting abilities in some matches, it is also true that the openers are the key. “If Starc picks up Bairstow who is coming into this game with back to back hundreds or if Archer picks up Warner, who according to me is the batsman of the tournament alongside Rohit Sharma, it will have a massive impact on the game,” said Clarke.
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