Chris Woakes led the charge with the ball before Jason Roy unleashed his belligerence on Australia to help England make their first World Cup final appearance since 1992. Here’s Hugh Chevallier’s report from the 2020 Wisden Almanack.
England v Australia
Semifinal 2, ICC Cricket World Cup 2019
July 11, 2019
In the build-up to England’s first World Cup semi-final for a generation, the Australian squad walked barefoot on the Birmingham grass, ostensibly to draw positive energy from the earth. In the game itself, England made that connection deeper still: they buried them.
Finch inevitably chose to bat, since England’s three hiccups had come chasing. Proceedings began with Warner driving a Woakes half-volley through the covers, but the bowlers hit back. Archer’s first-ball inswinger trapped Finch for a golden duck, then Woakes had Warner taken at second slip with one that bounced and left him.
And when a wobbly Handscomb – on World Cup debut because of injury to Usman Khawaja – was castled by Woakes, it was 14 for three. Only the quickest of thinking from Carey, promoted to No. 5, prevented it becoming 19 for four: a vicious ball from Archer dislodged his helmet which, had he not caught it, seemed to be heading for the stumps.
Despite a deep cut to the chin, Carey maintained his composure and, together with the hyper-fidgety Smith, set a recovery in train. Neither rapid nor pretty, it was effective: first Australia’s hundred, then the century stand. Rashid’s variations held no mystery, and his first 25 balls yielded 30 risk-free runs. But then Carey, looking to clear deep mid-wicket, found the fielder.
The lapse reinvigorated England: Rashid claimed two more, both with googlies, and Archer’s exquisite knuckleball made a fool of Maxwell, who dollied to cover. A feisty Smith–Starc alliance battled on, eventually ended by dazzling athleticism and a dollop of luck: a blink-of-an-eye pick-up-and-throw from Buttler threaded Smith’s legs as he tore down the wicket. His cussed classic gave Australia a scrap of hope: 224 was three more than England had managed against them a fortnight earlier, 12 more than against Sri Lanka.
But now there was the Roy factor. Undaunted by reputation or pressure, he held back, then pulled out the pin. Starc was first to suffer: ten off his second over, and a flick over fine leg for six in his third. Would spin stem the flow? No chance. Lyon’s first delivery sailed over his head for another six. Where should Finch turn? Smith’s leg-breaks? Mistake.
After two singles and a wide came three more monstrous Roy sixes, the last almost clearing Edgbaston’s huge new South Stand. The savaging of Smith brought the openers their 11th century partnership. And although Starc did remove Bairstow in the 18th, the Australian goose was already on a plate, with roast potatoes. Two overs later, Kumar Dharmasena detected a non-existent leg-side edge and gave Roy out. Bairstow had squandered the review, and Roy’s indignation earned him a 30% fine and two demerit points.
Root and Morgan then hastened Australia’s first World Cup semi-final defeat out of eight – ensuring a new name would be on the trophy. England travelled to their first final since 1992 brimming with brio, their fear of chasing laid to rest.
First published in the 2020 Wisden Cricketers’ Almanack