BIRMINGHAM: Conditions at Edgbaston were nothing like Manchester. There was no cloud cover and neither was the surface deteriorating and slow. The sun was out in all its glory and the surface was considered a belter. Yet, Australia, batting first lost their top three batsmen for 14 on board. David Warner hit a first-ball four, but for the next two hours, it was one way-traffic for England. ALSO READ: World Cup debut for Peter Handscomb
The King of knockouts, Steve Smith staged a tremendous fightback for Australia batting almost till the very end, and along the way formed crucial partnerships. With Alex Carey, who pushed through the pain barrier after a brutal blow to the chin by Jofra Archer, Smith added 103 runs and led a spirited Australian revival. Smith top-scored with 85 and increased his tally to 311 runs from four innings in World Cup knockouts with four half-centuries.
But England pulled things back remarkably through Adil Rashid and Chris Woakes, who returned impressive figures to bowl Australia out for 223.
Once again walking out to a clattering of boos, Warner struck a delightful cover but it was England who drew first blood. First ball from Archer rapped Aaron Finch on the pads the Australia captain was out for a golden duck. The boos for Warner turned into cheers for Woakes when the batsman nicked him away from his body to Jonny Bairstow at slip.
To make matters worse, Usman Khawaja‘s replacement Peter Handscomb hung around for 12 balls before being cleaned up by Woakes. Learning from their mistakes at Lord’s, Archer and Woakes kept the ball in line of the stumps and exploited the conditions well. At 14/3, these were shades of India a day earlier at Old Trafford, but Smith and Carey’s resolute partnership proved to be the difference.
Bit by bit, Smith and Carey worked their way to runs ensuring they go behind the line of the ball. Smith was 7 off his first 34 balls but picked up pace to score his next 28 runs off 20. Batting cautiously, Smith and Carey brought up the 50-run partnership for the fifth wicket off 73 balls. The highlight of the stand was Carey’s supreme grit. He was pinned by a rising Archer delivery; the impact was such that his helmet came off at the time of contact.
But with a wraparound bandage around his face, Carey carried on, despite his chin beginning to bleed and face starting to swell up. Four balls after he copped the blow, Carey tucked into a delightful cover drive before bringing out a sweep off Rashid. The find of the World Cup, Carey added 46 to his impressive scores of 55, 38 and 85 this tournament.
Rashid’s twin blow pegged Australia back. Eoin Morgan‘s faith in Rashid had remained unshaken in the tournament, and this is when his numbers prior to the second semi-final had read eight wickets at an average of 56.12. There were also whispers of a troubled shoulder. But Rashid dispelled those doubts in a matter of three balls. Carey holed out at deep mid-wicket to a slog sweep and Marcus Stoinis was done in by a ripper of a googly for a second-ball duck.
In between those two wickets, Smith had completed his fifty off 72 balls. Australia’s twinkle-toed genius held one end and played anchor. When the boundary balls were on offer, Smith ensured those didn’t go unpunished.
Maxwell swatted Ali over long on and threw the kitchen sink to a half-tracker. Estimating a short ball, Archer was nailed with a brutal pull but with a little bit of variation, the England quick pitched in a slower ball and a good length that removed Maxwell. Rashid then, bowling his final over, had Cummins edging to Joe Root, who held on to a smart catch at first slip.
With constant wickets going down, Smith did not have the license to go big. Still the ones banged in short without much pace were pulled with precision for boundaries. Smith and Mitchell Starc added 51 in less than 10 overs, and threatened to get a few more, maybe steer Australia towards that 250-run mark, before a Jos Buttler pulled off a Martin Guptill/Ravindra Jadeja from Old Trafford, striking with a direct hit to run Smith out.
Woakes removed Starc the very next ball caught behind and Mark Wood knocked over Jason Behrendorff.
Brief Scores: Australia 223 all out (Steve Smith 85, Alex Carey 46; Chris Woakes 3/20) vs England