London, Jul 11: There is a bit more than the usual lucky charm about Captain Morgan and his spirit of optimism. The affable England cricket captain is trying his best to be the first Englishman to lift the elusive Cricket World Cup for his country. But that will not happen in a jiffy for sure.
England have to first beat holders Australia in the second semi final on Thursday at Edgbaston and then play the winners of India and New Zealand semi final match in the grand finals at Lords on 14th July (Sunday) in front of what is expected to be a sell out crowd. If they manage to beat the Aussies in the second semi finals they will have all England run wild with celebrations. The Ashes rivals will be on a ‘do or die’ mission to ‘win at all costs’.
Although England are one step away from reaching Lords they have to get past Australia who have won the World Cup 5 times (1987, 1999,2003, 2007, 2015) earlier besides being runners up (1975 & 1996) twice. This time under skipper Aaron Finch the Aussies have cruised along nicely winning 7 of their 9 league matches and qualifying for the semi finals. Except for their unexpected defeat against South Africa in their ultimate league match. In comparison, England lost against Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan and were dangerously close to missing the semi final spot till they won their last two ‘must win’ matches against India and New Zealand respectively. They now have to carry on their winning performance in the semi final against Australia although they were defeated earlier in the league phase by 64 runs by Australia.
On their day, red hot favourites England are a great side with solid depth in batting and bowling strength. Batters like Jason Roy, Root, Bairstow, Butler, Stokes and skipper Morgan can pile up the runs at will. When Bairstow and Root bat well for England you are assured of a huge total. Skipper Morgan is also due for a big score after his mammoth 148 runs in 71 balls with 4 fours and 17 sixes against Afghanistan in an earlier league match.
All rounder Stokes has been in top form for England in the World Cup. Bowlers Jofra Archer, Woakes and Wood have worked hard with their bowling which has been supported with brilliant fielding. Archer has taken 17 wickets and Mark Wood 16 wickets so far. England are the number one side in the world and playing England in their own backyard will be a tough ask for any side including the Aussies.
Having said that about England one must know Australia have been past masters in their game. Their line up boasts of stalwarts like Warner, wicketkeeper Carey and skipper Finch who have exhibited their run machinery in the league matches in great fashion. Here again, former captain Steve Smith is long overdue for a top knock and should deliver against England. In the bowling front Mitchell Starc has been outstanding with a record breaking 26 wickets in his kitty in 9 matches giving away 432 runs till the semi final. Starc will be pumped up to be the top bowler in the World Cup without doubt.
Australia have been undone with injuries unfortunately. Top batsman Usman Khawaja has been ruled out with a hamstring problem and duly replaced by Matt Wade who has played 94 one day internationals for Australia and is in fine nick . Batsman Peter Handscomb has been drafted into the squad following an injury to Marsh while all rounder Marcus Stoinis is a doubtful starter with a side strain.
Both skipper Finch and coach Langer feel that the new replacements will do their job well. Supporting Langer was assistant coach Ricky Ponting who said that the injuries were part and parcel of any tournament. Ponting was a World Cup winning member in 1999, 2003 and 2007 for Australia who experienced similar injury scares with team members then and knows a thing or two about injury management. When England play Australia in the second semi final at Edgbaston they will know who their opponents will be in the final at Lords played on Sunday. Teams playing in Edgbaston will note that the pace bowlers have succeeded at the venue more than the spinners. Starc is expected to increase his tally of wickets in the contest. Glenn Turner (171 not out) still holds the record for the highest score against East Africa in the first World Cup in 1975.
This venue has hosted 62 ODIs and seen 24 hundreds scored. The second semi final on Thursday may see more records tumble. Very interestingly, England side will be coached by Australian Trevor Bayliss who has transformed England into a top team.
“It doesn’t get any better than this” said Australian skipper Aaron Finch just as he walked off after a hectic practice session. “To beat England in England in the semi final would be great.”
Just as England and Australia were fine tuning their semi final battle plans in Edgbaston one ever present question popping up was “Will England prevail this time? Will it be Captain Morgan all the way?”
A nail biting encounter is assured with no holds barred.