England reach WC final with Aussie humiliation

 

BLOODY Edgbaston.

It was the obvious scene for Birmingham bedlam and England wasn't joking when it said it was thrilled to be playing its first World Cup final since 1992 at its favourite cricket fortress.

That's 11 consecutive wins, across all formats, in a run stretching back all the way to 2014.

But none were as big as this, and the withering start by Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes foreshadowed Australia's woeful exit, pulverised by eight wickets.

 

Australia's captain Aaron Finch walks off for a duck. Picture: AFP
Australia's captain Aaron Finch walks off for a duck. Picture: AFP

Captain Eoin Morgan heaved a pull shot for four off Jason Behrendorff to finally eliminate Australia, with a laughable 17.1 overs to spare.

But 10 minutes earlier, the song, "It's coming home, it's coming home, it's coming. Cricket's coming home…" echoed around the boisterous crowd.

It was clear another chapter of Edgbaston misery was in the book.

The Aussies haven't won in any format at this ground since 2001, while the last ODI victory at this joint was all the way back in 1993.

The Aussies bared their souls and their soles at Monday, swapping World Cup war stories as they tried to connect with the turf.

But with shoes on they were kicked to the ground as four years of predominant ODI misery ended in a one-sided semi-final.

Steve Smith played a lone hand for Australia. Picture: Getty
Steve Smith played a lone hand for Australia. Picture: Getty

A vintage Steve Smith innings provided glimmers of hope.

Smith underlined why he is the world's smartest batsman as the former captain was promoted to No.3 and then punctured England's thundering start.

Australian selectors also gave Glenn Maxwell one last chance, dropping him down the order rather than out of the team, and turned to Smith's three match-winning knocks in the knockout rounds of the 2015 World Cup by returning him to the top order.

But captain Aaron Finch made a greater contribution with the coin rather than the bat, winning the toss and then trudging off after his first golden duck in three years as Australia wobbled like a tub of jelly.

Finch copped a peach from Ashes-bound fast bowler Jofra Archer and David Warner joined him in the pavilion minutes later as a nasty Chris Woakes delivery was tickled to second slip.

Man of the match Chris Woakes was exceptional in the early stages to shut Australia down. Picture: Getty
Man of the match Chris Woakes was exceptional in the early stages to shut Australia down. Picture: Getty

It was Australia's worst start of the tournament, although, in fairness, it was England's greatest.

They had batsman groping around like someone trying to find the light switch in the middle of the night.

Not for the first time, World Cup debutant Pete Handscomb's lack of foot work suggested he was wearing Blundstone boots.

Handscomb (four runs) survived a reviewed lbw shout on zero and then intensified the early crumle when he played a loose drive onto his stumps.

Former England captain Michael Vaughan said it was the wrong call to pick Handscomb over the century-slasher Matthew Wade.

Vaughan said that England's attack of five-seamers should've counted against spin-specialist Handscomb, a valid point given the elegant right-hander was done after 12 balls of fast and furious bowling. 

Smith, meanwhile, made one run off his first 18 balls, a strike-rate of 5.56. It was the perfect batsmanship Australia required.

He was eventually run-out by a centimetre on 85 (119) as a great Jos Buttler throw in the 48th over denied Australia a slashing finish after the shakiest of starts.

Smith now averages 103.7 in World Cup knockout games.

The power-play was anything but for Australia as it crawled to 3/27, facing 45 dot balls.

The run-rate didn't penetrate three until a swiveling Smith pull-shot found the rope in the 14th over, but the underdog was in the game and set an under-par 224 to win.

And it is like Alex Carey has ghosted a chapter in Smith's textbook on game awareness, because he, too can read scenarios like few others.

The regular No.7 entered after just 37 balls, after being promoted above Australia's battling allrounders, and looked sharp.

Then, finally, fans got their wish as Wade made his way to the pitch in a World Cup semi-final.

The problem was, the destructive batsman was wearing an orange bid and helping carry the doctor's kit Carey required stitches because Archer bopped him on the chin.

With a busted-up look, Carey batted beautifully, much like the man in the commentary box, the great Kumar Sangakkara.

It was a gutsy hand. In fact, quite literally, a bloody good hand, given his face was swollen and taped up, stoking memories of Rick McCosker.

But Carey, looking to clear the rope for the first time, fell five metres and four runs short of a half-century, as he was caught by James Vince.

Vaughan had seen enough though, declaring Carey "must play" in the Ashes.

Alex Carey (R) is assisted by the team's medical staff. picture: AFP
Alex Carey (R) is assisted by the team's medical staff. picture: AFP

Smith swore loudly in frustration. But the cursing had only just begun, because in the same Adil Rashid (3/54) over Marcus Stoinis was gone for a second-ball duck.

A googly struck Stoinis on the thigh pad and that brought the spotlight on Maxwell and, specifically, the short-ball challenge that was threatening his career.

England captain Eoin Morgan brought back Archer back on two overs later, and the bombing began.

Maxwell hooked the first short one for four and ducked the next one. Archer (2/32) kept coming, happy to concede a couple of wides to get between Maxwell's ears.

England's Jason Roy, left, celebrates with batting partner Jonny Bairstow after hitting a boundary during the Cricket World Cup semi-final match between England and Australia at Edgbaston in Birmingham, England, Thursday, July 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)
England's Jason Roy, left, celebrates with batting partner Jonny Bairstow after hitting a boundary during the Cricket World Cup semi-final match between England and Australia at Edgbaston in Birmingham, England, Thursday, July 11, 2019. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi)

In the end it was Archer's knuckle ball, rather than a short ball, that got Maxwell. But the polarizing allrounder's footwork, or lack thereof, also did him no favours.

Maxwell lasted just eight Archer deliveries, while on Saturday he was gone on South African tearaway Kagiso Rabada's seventh delivery to him.

Australia's skinny total was one that required superb fast bowling from left-armers. It didn't happen.

It looked like the Aussies batted on the minefield and England a road. World Cup warrior Mitchell Starc and Test great Nathan Lyon combined for 1/119 from 14 overs.

It was a walk in the park for England. They could've done it with their shoes off.

STEVE SMITH in WORLD CUP KNOCKOUT GAMES

2015

65 (69) vs Pakistan (quarter-final)

105 (93) vs India (semi-final)

56* (71) vs New Zealand (final)

2019

85 (119) vs England (semi-final)

Average: 103.7

Watch every match of the 2019 Cricket World Cup on FOXTEL, via Foxtel IQ, Foxtel Now or stream on Kayo Sports

News Corp Australia


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