Keep your friends close, but your enemies closer! That’s how England Cricket sees it at the moment. It has come down to tomorrow’s clash between the Ashes rivals to decide the second semi-finalist from Group A.
England have thoroughly looked like the side to beat with clinical performances in their two group matches. They are the only team yet to face defeat in this year’s Champions Trophy. Led by Eoin Morgan, their white-ball cricket revival has been tremendous. Their batting has reflected the attacking cricket they have committed to. And with a bowling attack that looks much more settled now, their batting line-up seems even more intimidating. They are a side high on confidence and is the only team so far to have cemented a semi-final berth.
The Australians have had an off-putting Champions Trophy so far. And where rain has protected them from a loss to New Zealand, it has also robbed them off a victory against Bangladesh. The English weather seems to be Australia’s arch enemy at the moment. They weren’t bowling at their best against New Zealand in the first game, but came back with a strong performance in the next. Their batting is yet to be tested properly, and they will have to come good in essentially what is a quarter-final for the Australians.
Although the forecasts suggest it will be a warm day in Edgbaston, plenty of light showers are expected. Expect the Aussies and their supporters to come without umbrellas, they will hope for a full-game, and will accept nothing but victory. The pitch used will be different to the one played on in the previous three games at Edgbaston. It will be interesting to see how it plays.
Following Bangladesh’s win, expect plenty of their supporters rooting for England on Saturday. A loss to England would end Australia’s campaign for the Champions Trophy 2017, paving way for Bangladesh into the semis. It shouldn’t surprise anyone if there are a few squabbles between the two sides, particularly between Warner and Root, with a few sharp words added from Starc and Stokes.
Australia is likely to walk into the game with an unchanged unit, and so might England. Despite the certainty of qualification, England will not give Australia an easy passage. They would love to take-out their arch-rivals from the competition, with the Ashes only five months away. Also, given the extensive faith put in Jason Roy despite his recent failures, this game will be the perfect stage for him to find his lost confidence for the semi-finals.
While the likes of Alex Hales, Joe Root and Eoin Morgan have seemed comfortable against pace in this tournament, the Aussie pace attack will certainly challenge their skill and temperament. The trio of Cummins, Hazlewood and Starc were very effective against Bangladesh. Not to forget Adam Zampa, who with his frizzy new hairstyle, and skill with the ball will look to grab crucial middle-order wickets.
England: Eoin Morgan (c), Joe Root, Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes, Jos Butler (wk), Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, Mark Wood, Jake Ball
Australia: Steven Smith (c), David Warner, Aaron Finch, Travis Head, Glenn Maxwell, Moises Henriques, Matthew Wade (wk), Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa, Pat Cummins, Marcus Stoinis
Joe Root – Shaping up nicely to be the batsmen of the tournament, he has been striking it over 100 in this edition of the Champions Trophy with a fifty, a century and a thumping average of 197. However, he averages only 17.66 against Australia, and 9.60 at home. Getting his wicket early would expose the middle order early in the piece, an opportunity the Australians wouldn’t want to squander.
Eoin Morgan – Striking the ball well, he has been the perfect batting partner with Joe Root. He has the ability to stay at the crease and up the ante when needed. He has looked in excellent touch and a century seems imminent. On top of that, he averages 53.33 against Australia in England.
Pat Cummins – The young fast bowling sensation of Australia is waiting to have a go at the English. He has 15 wickets from 8 ODIs against England, 13 of which he claimed on English soil at an average of 22.23, striking at 24.9. He likes bowling against the English and won’t miss a chance at giving the batsmen a few bruises.
Aaron Finch – In his 16 matches against England, he has scored three centuries at 46.35. He is a gritty opener who doesn’t miss out on loose balls. He has had a lean patch, but his record against the Englishmen might just be the impetus he needs. If the ball comes onto the bat well on this pitch, England better watch out.
England and Australia’s head-to-head in ICC Champions Trophy is 2-2
Both England victories in the ICC Champions Trophy against Australia came at Edgbaston
Liam Plunkett is the highest wicket taker in this year’s Champions Trophy so far with 8 wickets in 2 games