England showed no mercy to arch rivals Australia, chasing down a modest target of 224 in just 32.1 overs, as they reached their first World Cup final in 27 years. Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid starred for the English with the ball, while Jason Roy delivered the knockout punch with the bat.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man
Steve Smith was in as early as the eight ball of the match, and within five overs of his stay at the crease, his team had already been reduced to 14/3. The situation wasn’t alien for Smith, who had faced similar situations many a time in red ball cricket, but today, he had to do it in coloured clothing, with the added pressure of the match being a World Cup semi-final, against the fiercest of rivals, with 25,000 people booing him.
Unmoved by the magnitude of the occasion, Smith treated the contest just like a Test match, giving all the respect in the world to the bowlers, scoring just five runs off his first 30 balls. All he needed was a partner to steer the ship, and in Alex Carey, he found one. He played the waiting game, frustrated the English bowlers, and pounced on their mistakes on the first attempt. In no time, he turned around the collapse into a respectable recovery, but to his dismay, he got no support from the other end, post Carey’s dismissal, and eventually was undone by a moment of magic from Jos Buttler.
You need your best players to deliver on the biggest of occasions, and Smith did exactly that, that too when his team was staring down the barrel. His scores in World Cup knockout matches - 65, 105, 56* and 85 - serve as a testament to his ability to deliver under pressure. His credibility in the limited overs format was questioned ahead of the World Cup, and not only has Smith put those doubts to bed, but also has built his reputation as the go-to man to rescue a team under pressure.
The deadly duo of Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer
With England’s batting getting all the attention thanks to their ultra-aggressive approach, their bowling has gone under the radar, but make no mistake, their bowlers have contributed to their resurgence as much as their batsmen, if not more. Being on the brink of elimination, England needed their bowlers to respond, and they obliged.
27/3, 37/2, 28/1 - The scores England have restricted their opponents to in their last three matches, at the end of the 10th over. Chris Woakes set the tone in the match against India bowling three consecutive maidens, and the English bowling hasn’t looked back since.
The duo of Woakes and Jofra Archer have been impeccable with the new ball, with the former exploiting the conditions and troubling batsmen with his swing and seam, and the latter bombarding batsmen with his pace. Today was no different - while Woakes got rid of David Warner and Peter Handscomb with his seam and bounce, Archer caught Aaron Finch off guard in his first delivery with a quick inswinger, sending the Aussie skipper packing. While Archer removed the dangerous Glenn Maxwell with a knuckle-ball, Woakes stuck to a more orthodox approach, as he got rid off Mitchell Starc.
With both Archer and Woakes complimenting each other with their contrasting styles, England finally have a new-ball pair who they can rely on - a luxury which they have not had in white ball cricket for a long long time. Come Sunday, when England take on New Zealand at Lord’s for the ultimate prize, one can be sure that Woakes and Archer will once again go hunting as a pair, trying to burst the Kiwi bubble as early as they can.
England’s aggressive approach pays dividends
Following the 2015 World Cup disaster, England made wholesale changes to both their personnel and their approach. Led by Eoin Morgan, England have blasted their way to success over the course of the last three years, breaking all sorts of records with the bat. Despite suffering a setback in the 2017 Champions Trophy, England have stuck to their approach, and have reaped rewards for doing so.
After staying true to their approach in the first five matches of this World Cup, England weirdly went out of track in the game against Sri Lanka - a move that massively backfired. The defeat to Sri Lanka almost seemed like a sign from the Gods to remind England to stick to their approach, and the Three Lions obliged. Staring at elimination with must-win games against India and New Zealand ahead, England reverted back to their approach, blowing both India and New Zealand out of the park.
Having failed to 232 against Sri Lanka in the group stages, England made sure they didn’t repeat the same mistake again, as Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy came all guns blazing from ball one. The duo did not give the Aussie bowlers a sniff, and delivered the knockout punch with the opening partnership.
Roy has had an extraordinary World Cup and has almost been intimidating opponents with his aggression. Despite losing the openers in quick succession, Joe Root and Morgan carried their aggressive avatar on to the field, and made sure that they sent a message as they finished the job off in just over 32 overs. The English batsmen have one last hurdle ahead of them, and who knows, they might just blast their way to victory on Sunday.
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