It's a very big home summer for England's cricket team. Not only are they playing the World Cup at home, but also hosting an Ashes series after it. The rivalry between the oldest Test-playing nations in the world will renew in the Test format a few weeks later but the face-off has already began with the Aussies defeating England in a league stage match earlier in the World Cup.
But now, the two sides square off in a contest that is far more important – a World Cup semi-final. It can be recalled that way back in 2004, England registered a surprise win over Australia in the Champions Trophy semi-final – held in England. This victory was regarded by England's then coach, Duncan Fletcher, as the turning point in the two team's rivalry and the beginning of England's ascendancy which culminated in the team's Ashes-winning performance next year.
But this match is in no danger of being seen only as a precursor of Ashes. Both sides are extremely motivated to win the World Cup. England are even more so, because they have never won the trophy and have been preparing for it meticulously since their debacle in the previous edition, held in Australia. So, we are all set for a brilliant match to decide who advances to the all-important final.
Let's now proceed to looking at the biggest factors that will influence the outcome of the game:
In this World Cup, the toss has proved to be really important with only two successful chases of over-250 scores in this tournament. England came into the event as a side that prefers chasing even if the target is over 350. However, their chasing ability completely deserted them in the last few weeks. The hosts lost three matches while batting second while Australia's two losses also came in pursuit of 300+ scores. So, the pressure of chasing in this World Cup has proven to be too hard to bear for most teams. Hence, the side that wins the toss and bats first should have a clear advantage.
English openers vs Aussies seamers
One of the reasons for England's great success in ODI cricket over the years has been their destructive batting at the top of the order. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow have once again shown their ability as aggressive batsmen. But against the new ball, that too, bowled by Mitchell Starc and co., attacking batting won't be easy. So, the contest between the English openers with the bat and Australian bowlers, especially Starc, at the top of the innings would be crucial. Whoever wins that battle may go on to win the match.
Lyon vs England batsmen
Nathan Lyon has become one of the best bowlers in this World Cup. Despite being kept out of the side for the first few matches, the offie was brought back into the team in place of Adam Zampa. Since then, he has been brilliant and has shown his class as a bowler who can both pick wickets and keep the scoring down. But England like to go after spinners, therefore, the contest between Lyon and English batsmen would be riveting. Being a high-quality off-spinner, the 31-year old Aussie would use his ability to beat the batsmen in flight to counter his opponents. How the English batsmen counter it would be worth watching.
Morgan's vulnerability against short balls
Eoin Morgan isn't just the captain of the English team, he is also one of their important middle-order batsmen. However, he has been twice dismissed by short deliveries that he tried to pull. This suggests that he is a bit of a compulsive hooker who struggles when a bouncer is directed at his body. In the match against Australia, Morgan was removed by a sharp bouncer from Starc. The English captain can expect more of that from the Australian bowlers. How Morgan deals with them is crucial. Whether he ducks, sways or hooks the ball, Morgan needs to figure out a way. Otherwise, he wouldn't contribute much to England's batting.
The pitch is always important in a cricket match but it could be even more so in the second semi-final. England have been a terrific side in good batting conditions. However, they have shown the inability to play differently when the conditions demand it. If the pitch is a bit difficult for the batsmen – whether it is slower or bouncier – then the hosts may not know how to change their approach. They may lose wickets in playing their natural aggressive way which is not conducive to the pitch. So, the pitch, which is prepared by ICC and not the home board, will have a huge bearing on the game.