England meet Australia at Edgbaston in Thursday’s second ICC World Cup semi-final and it is the hosts who are the 8/11 favourites at BetVictor with the Baggy Greens 23/20, despite the latter having run out emphatic winners when the sides met in the round robin stage at Lord’s last month.
Australia lost a high-scoring game against a rejuvenated South Africa in their last group game at Old Trafford on Saturday and that defeat was enough to prevent Aaron Finch’s side from staying in Manchester and a meeting with Trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand on Tuesday.
It has been suggested that that defeat will have taken the wind out of the Aussie sails and they have been hit by injuries to Usman Khawaja – pulled a hamstring against the Proteas – and Shaun Marsh – had his arm broken by Pat Cummins in the nets. That said Peter Handscomb and especially Matthew Wade are more than adequate replacements and the Australian management team of coach Justin Langer, skipper Aaron Finch and batting coach Ricky Ponting have a big decision to make regarding their batting line up.
Wade has been in magnificent batting form over the last 12 months and is currently playing in England on the Aussie A Tour where his scores have been – 117 off 67 balls, 155 off 71, 41 off 20 and 42 from 37. That said wicket keeper Alex Carey has also been in tremendous form throughout the World Cup and he has often looked to be batting too low in the order at 7. Will the Aussie brains trust leave Carey at 7 or will he be promoted up the order?
Wade or Hanscomb for Khawaja might indeed be a trade up, and I’m not convinced the potential loss of another injury concern, the show-pony that is Marcus Stoinis would be a huge loss although Mitchell Marsh, who would be his replacement, is hardly a world-class all-rounder.
England have won two vital tosses to beat India and New Zealand in their last couple of games and I think it is fair to assume that Finch or Eoin Morgan will to bat if they win the toss in Birmingham.
We said at the start of the tournament that anyone backing England at 7/4 or 15/8 for the tournament needed their head examined as they were likely to be a similar price if they reached the semi-final stage. England were indeed 7/4 joint favs before the first semi-final between India and New Zealand on Tuesday with Australia – our pre-tournament selection – 11/4.
Momentum surely lies with England who have batted with great authority since the return of Jason Roy, but would they be able to play with the same freedom and confidence with the scoreboard saying they are chasing 280+?
It promises to be a fantastic sporting occasion and it is difficult to be too dogmatic about the Aussie top bat until we have seen the team-sheet. David Warner is obviously the best player and is in irresistible form, but it only needs one ball from Jofra Archer or Chris Woakes with the new ball and having put him up at 14s for top tournament runscorer I will look elsewhere.
Finch has a sensational record against England, but so has Steve Smith and it is the former skipper who gets the nod. It has not been a great tournament for Smith who is 29/10 at BetVictor but I hope he comes in at 3 with Wade 4, Carey 5, Maxwell 6 and Stoinis or Marsh at 7.
A number of people I have spoken to have written off the Baggy Greens since their defeat to South Africa at the weekend, but I feel that is premature. I can’t desert my pre-tournament selection at the 11th hour.
All England v Australia games are big but, with a place in Sunday’s Lord’s Final at Stake, this promises to be something quite special.
Australia to win at 23/20
Steve Smith top bat at 29/10
Highest first 15 overs England at 8/11