World Cup 2019: Buoyant England favourites against injury-hit Australia in blockbuster semifinal
When we think Australia-England, the Ashes is the first thing that comes to mind. With just a few weeks to go until the first Test match, you would be forgiven for thinking that the Ashes is the talk of the town.
However, there is something bigger at stake for these two teams when they lock horns with each other on the 11th of July in the World Cup semifinal at Edgbaston. The winner of this match will end up one step closer to lifting the prestigious trophy.
Australia will be high on confidence after defeating England convincingly in the group stage at Lord's. However, England will have learned from their mistakes and will also be upbeat heading into the semifinal after registering successive wins against India and New Zealand.
Jason Roy's return has added firepower to the English side and his contributions in the last two games prove why he is a vital cog in this English wheel.
Roy's aggression from the start of the innings puts oppositions on the backfoot and allows England to get off to flying starts. He acts as the perfect foil for Jonny Bairstow and when the pair gets going, they take the game away from the opposition in the first 15 overs itself.
While England have welcomed players back from injury, Australia have suffered two big blows ahead of the crunch encounter. Usman Khawaja sustained a hamstring injury which has ruled him out of the tournament and Marcus Stoinis has suffered another side strain which could potentially end his World Cup as well.
Matthew Wade and Mitchell Marsh, who are currently touring England with the Australian 'A' side, have been called up. Stoinis' injury might prove particularly worrying for Australia as he provides balance to the team. While Marsh is also an all-rounder, it will be tough for him to step into the team and perform on such short notice, particularly in a World Cup semi-final.
With Khawaja out, Steve Smith will probably push himself up to the No. 3 position. While Wade is in spectacular form, Australia are likely to opt for Peter Handscomb, who has been in the squad for a while now, serving as cover for Shaun Marsh.
England will enter this match as favourites, however, if David Warner continues his form with the bat and Mitchell Starc can get the ball to dance to his tunes, Australia can quickly swing things back in their favor.
The key against England will be to dismiss their openers early and get the likes of Joe Root and Eoin Morgan to the crease as soon as possible, just as Australia did in the group stage match at Lord's. England, on the other hand, will look to target Australia's fifth bowling option - be it Maxwell or Mitchell Marsh - so Aaron Finch needs to be meticulous when making his bowling changes.
Along with their batting, England's bowlers have also found form, with the likes of Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett bowling some wonderful spells.
Plunkett, in particular, has been impressive with the older ball, bowling his slower deliveries and cutters and garnering some success.
Woakes has been dead accurate with the new ball and equally effective at the death, picking up wickets consistently. Jofra Archer, on the other hand, has been lethal throughout the tournament and his extra pace has troubled batsmen in almost every match.
One advantage Australia do have over England is the prior experience of having won a World Cup. They have a few players in their current side who were also present in the 2015 squad.
Australia know what it takes to cross the line, whereas, for England, it will be a new experience. How they absorb the pressure will be what determines the outcome of the match in the end.
In 1999, we witnessed a thriller between South Africa and Australia at Edgbaston and we might just have another cliffhanger come Thursday.
Also read – World cup winners list