AFP/Birmingham, United Kingdom
England booked their place in the World Cup final against New Zealand with a dominant eight-wicket win over reigning champions Australia at Edgbaston yesterday.
Jason Roy hit a blistering 85 as England reached a victory target of 224 with a mammoth 107 balls to spare after restricting Australia.
Openers Roy and Jonny Bairstow (34) put on 124 for the first wicket, their fourth consecutive century stand.
England, losing finalists in 1979, 1987 and 1992, will now face New Zealand, who have also yet to win the World Cup after finishing runners-up to Australia four years ago, in Sunday’s final at Lord’s following the Black Caps’ surprise semi-final win over India.
“I’m pretty speechless,” said man-of-the-match Chris Woakes. “It was an incredible performance from the whole team. It started with the bowling performance and then the way they knocked that off was outstanding.
“There were some nerves around this morning but that’s natural going into a semi-final. The way we produced the goods just showed how good we are and where we are at as a team.”
Roy, who missed three matches earlier in the tournament with a torn hamstring, was in particularly good form, hitting left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc and Nathan Lyon for sixes.
Australia were in desperate need of early wickets after suffering a top-order collapse on the way to being dismissed for 223, with the record five-time champions thankful for Steve Smith’s battling 85.
All three of England’s defeats this tournament — including a 64-run group stage loss to Australia — have come batting second but Roy and Bairstow showed few signs of nerves in Birmingham.
Australia captain Aaron Finch turned to Steve Smith’s occasional leg-spin in a desperate bid to break the partnership.
Smith was booed by a large crowd, a reflection of the former Australia captain’s role in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa that saw him banned for 12 months.
But the jeers turned to cheers as Roy hit three huge straight sixes in as many balls.
Bairstow fell lbw to Starc, who in the process set a new record for most wickets at a single World Cup of 27.
Roy was in sight of a hundred when he was given out caught behind down the legside by wicketkeeper Alex Carey off fast bowler Pat Cummins.
The batsman was visibly angry and had to be ushered away from the crease by square leg umpire Marais Erasmus. England had earlier squandered their lone review.
Test skipper Joe Root (49 not out) and England captain Eoin Morgan (45 not out) finished the job as the crowd chanted “cricket’s coming home”.
Defeat meant Australia suffered their first loss in eight World Cup semi-finals.
Earlier, Woakes and Adil Rashid each took three wickets apiece.
Woakes struck twice early on at his Warwickshire home ground as Australia slumped to 14-3 after winning the toss.
Australia’s prolific opening pair of David Warner and Finch, as well as Peter Handscomb, were all back in the pavilion by the seventh over.
Warner, who like Smith walked out to boos because of his role in the ball-tampering scandal, returned to even louder cat-calls after being dismissed for nine.
Smith and Alex Carey steadied the innings with a fourth-wicket stand of 103 but wickets tumbled at regular intervals and Australia were unable to set England a testing target.
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