Stylish England powers into World Cup final vs New Zealand
BIRMINGHAM, England (AP) — The first flew over long-on. The second went straight down the ground, too, off the very next ball. Jason Roy made it a hat trick of sixes with the best of the lot, almost sending the white ball out of Edgbaston.
England powered into a first Cricket World Cup final in 27 years — and did it in some style.
Showing no nerves chasing the biggest prize in the sport, the tournament host trounced defending five-time champion and archrival Australia by eight wickets on Thursday to ensure there will be a first-time winner of the World Cup.
New Zealand awaits in the final at Lord’s on Sunday.
Roy led the way in a one-sided second semifinal, the opener living up to his billing as the showman of the team by smashing 85 off 65 balls as England hunted down a target of 224 to win in 32.1 overs. An extraordinary knock included five sixes — three in a row off Steve Smith, sending him out of the attack after one over — and nine fours.
England captain Eoin Morgan has demanded his team maintain the attacking, ultra-positive outlook it has adopted in soaring to the top of the ODI rankings over the past World Cup cycle, and his players didn’t let him down in what, for some, was the biggest game of their lives.
“We had a bit of a day out,” Morgan said. “It’s cool when it happens like that.”
It was almost the perfect day for England after losing the toss, with Australia soundly beaten in every aspect.
“All in all,” Australia captain Aaron Finch said, “we were totally outplayed.”
Australia was 14-3 after 6.1 overs, Finch departing to a golden duck off the seventh ball of the innings, opener David Warner — the team’s top scorer in this tournament with 647 runs — caught behind for 9, and then World Cup debutant Peter Handscomb out for 4.
Finch said the opening 30 minutes were where the game was won and lost, even if Smith and Alex Carey repaired the early damage with a fourth-wicket stand of 103 to help the Australians drag themselves to 223 all out.
Smith made 88 and Carey soldiered on for 46 after being struck on the helmet by a rising delivery from Jofra Archer on 4, playing the rest of his innings with his head bandaged and blood spilling from his chin.
Chris Woakes had 3-20 in eight overs, just about eclipsing the figures of fellow strike-bowler Archer, 2-32 off 10 overs.
New Zealand managed to successfully defend 239-8 against India in the first semifinal, another signal of the pressure even the biggest teams feel under in knockout cricket.
It didn’t show on England.
Roy and fellow opener Jonny Bairstow put on a century stand in the fourth straight match they have played together, sending Australia’s bowlers to all parts of Edgbaston in an exhibition of strokeplay.
Roy flicked paceman Mitchell Starc for six behind square, smacked Nathan Lyon for another six off the spinner’s first ball, then reversed-swept Lyon for four.
Then came that solitary over from Smith, which Roy treated with disdain. Edgbaston officials said it was the first time a batsman had found the top tier of the Pavilion End in an international match.
It was an angry Roy who departed short of his century, given out caught behind down the legside off Pat Cummins when replays showed he didn’t touch the ball. But the damage was done by then, with England 147-2 and on course for the final.
Bairstow had already been dismissed for 34, leaving Morgan (45) and Joe Root (49) to see England home as home fans serenaded the team with songs ranging from “Sweet Caroline” to “Cricket’s coming home,” changing the sport in a well-known chant from football.
With two runs needed and rain arriving, Morgan flat-batted a four as England moved to 226-2 and sealed victory. Fireworks exploded over the ground.
While Australia failed to win a World Cup semifinal for the first time in eight attempts, England won a World Cup knockout game for the first time since 1992.
There’s a new order in ODI cricket, with England almost reinventing the game over the last four years with world-record totals and its expansive style of play.
Only New Zealand stands in the way of England completing the turnaround from ODI no-hopers to world champions on Sunday.
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80