England make first final since 1992 thanks to Jason Roy
Their record of never having lost a World Cup semi-final was shattered, and now there will be a new champion on Sunday.
Edgbaston is a centre-point for fans from all over the country, and with rank-old rivals as their opponents, the stage was set for jubilation on Thursday.
England have been guilty of getting carried away previously in the tournament, and had to pull up their socks. Maybe it was the pressure of winning this World Cup that they had been dreaming for four years, or maybe it was just the weight of expectations.
This semi-final though was about staying in the moment, and doing the basics right. They had faltered against Pakistan at this juncture in the 2017 Champions Trophy and didn’t want to repeat those or any of the recent mistakes.
And earlier in this tournament itself, they messed up against Sri Lanka first, and then Australia blew them away. Jason Roy was the missing factor in both instances. But that Lankan defeat was a body blow – the defeat to Australia in its aftermath just a carry-on effect, which allowed the defending champions to express themselves fully.
With Roy in, there is a swagger about this English side, almost as if they come into their own. This trait was visible from ball one – Joffra Archer and Chris Woakes didn’t give any breathing space to the Australian batsmen, pinning them back, bowling back of length and into their bodies. It was different from the league clash at Lord’s because of difference in conditions.
Regular wickets worked their charm in Manchester, and they did so in Birmingham as well. Australia finished with a sub-par score, on a better deck that we saw at Old Trafford perhaps. There was only question of early wickets – the big fallibility of batting line-ups in this World Cup. Enter Roy, again!
Roy is your quintessential white-ball batsman. He brings the chutzpah of VirenderSehwag to the table, and you understand why England’s game plan completely changed when he was out for two games. With him at the crease, there is always a boundary coming, and then the next.
In the present-day context, he is a mix of ShikharDhawan’s surprising exuberance and David Warner’s consistency. You would think it is odd to pick these two names from a plethora of international openers who have made their presence felt in this tournament. It is not – both India and Australia are tremendously dependent on Dhawan and Warner, respectively, to provide ballistic starts at the top.
It was Dhawan’s absence that cost India as they were unable to find a solution to the middle order problem. It was Warner who found a new way to bat in this tournament providing rousing starts to the Australian innings, and they were so heavily leaning on him that his cheap dismissal on Friday kick-started the downfall.
Roy’s absence has impacted England’s plans. His presence has rejuvenated them, and breathed new life into this World Cup campaign. It began with the game against India, manifested further with the win over New Zealand, and now, England have regained their arrogance. His return – and big-hitting form – has combined to recapture the hosts’ marauding nature of cricket.
Perhaps the best showcase of it was the manner Roy smacked Steve Smith out of the attack with disdain. It was the last throw of their dice, mixing some spin to surprise the batsmen, a change of pace if you will. The opener launched into him, converting boos Smith receives into cheers for those sixes, each bigger than the last. It was as if he was doing the Australian a mercy.
In this moment the full impact of England’s impending semi-final victory was realized. It was a familiar sight of domination – almost a boxing match that should have been stopped before full time, as Australia lay bloodied middle of the Edgbaston ring.
Their record of never having lost a World Cup semi-final was shattered, and now there will be a new champion on Sunday. New Zealand proved a point in Manchester, but England have sent a message to London from Birmingham.