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Recent Match Report – Australia vs England, World Cup, 2nd Semi-final

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England (Roy 85) beat Australia 223 (Smith 85, Woakes 3-20) by eight wickets

How does that old song go again? Thirty years of hurt? Make that 44 and counting (and contrary to the lyrics, England’s cricketers certainly gave up dreaming for at least 20 of those). But suddenly it’s all up for grabs. On home soil, with the wind behind their backs and the fates screaming in their favour. Is it coming home this time? If you don’t believe it now, you truly never will.

One thing is for sure. New Zealand await in the World Cup final at Lord’s on Sunday, where for the first time since Sri Lanka at Lahore in 1996, a brand-new team is sure to be crowned as champions. But after the jitters and the wobbles, the niggles and the doubts, today was the day when England banished the angst and restored the roar that had carried the side to the top of the world ODI rankings.

Put simply, Australia are not meant to suffer beatings this comprehensive in World Cup knock-out matches. They had not lost any of their previous seven visits to the semi-finals, and yet a massive 107 deliveries still remained when victory, fittingly, was sealed with a swipe over long-on from England’s captain, Eoin Morgan, the man in whose image this team has been remoulded since the misery of 2015.

After adapting their gung-ho attitudes to haul themselves into the last four, this was a throwback performance of precisely the right genre from England, on a day that had dawned fraught with the sort of anticipation not truly witnessed in an England v Australia contest since that seismic Ashes Test at Edgbaston in 2005. Then as now, England knew they had their opponents’ measure after a generation of subjugation, but the weight of history isn’t something that can be cast off at a whim.

Or so we might have assumed. Instead, England tapped into the same mindset that had crushed Australia 5-0 in their bilateral series a mere 12 months ago, and produced a performance that had far more in common with that 481-run pasting at Trent Bridge than the rather timid, confused surrender at Lord’s a fortnight ago that had left their tournament in such jeopardy.

Ferocity was England’s watchword from the outset, and with ball and bat alike. Not even the loss of an apparently crucial toss could unhinge them, as Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer contrived in the space of 16 balls to blow away Australia’s totemic openers, Aaron Finch and David Warner, before Adil Rashid produced the spell of his tournament to undermine a doughty fightback from Steve Smith and Alex Carey, who batted on gamely after a savage blow to the chin from Archer had left him bleeding profusely and requiring stitches.

And thereafter it was over to Jason Roy – the man of England’s tournament, whatever the final may bring – who climbed into a sub-par target of 224 with a hugely intelligent blend of caution and mounting arrogance. He and Jonny Bairstow displayed the wisdom gleaned from earlier tournament hiccups to see off a briefly threatening Mitchell Starc, but retained the right to flog allcomers with impunity wherever their lines strayed from the straight and narrow.

At the end of the Powerplay, England were 50 for 0 and cruising, and Roy began to turn on the afterburners. Nathan Lyon, a scourge of English batsman in Ashes battles gone by, was pumped for six first-ball as he entered the fray for the 11th over. And when Australia, in desperation, tossed the ball to Smith in a bid for any sort of a breakthrough, Roy responded with three consecutive sixes – the third of which, into the fourth tier of the new stand, was surely the largest on this ground since Andrew Flintoff’s iconic smoking of Brett Lee into what was then a building site during that 2005 Test.

Only accident or injury seemed capable of dampening England’s day, and both did briefly flare up – first when Bairstow had to receive treatment after tweaking his groin while turning for a second run. He was never quite as fluent again before falling lbw to Starc for 34 – a dismissal which, in using up England’s review, had a major bearing on the second flashpoint of England’s chase.

On 85, Roy climbed into a pull at a bouncer from Starc – and was left utterly bewildered as umpire Kumar Dharmasena first began to single a wide, but then rather apologetically raised his finger, seemingly swayed at the last second by the vehemence of Australia’s appeals. Roy signalled for the review, was reminded he had none left, and then launched into an apoplectic rant that betrayed the enormity of the task still at hand.

Full report to follow



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‘Don’t know if we can be put under more pressure’ – Kagiso Rabada

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South Africa’s attack has seldom felt as much strain as they do on their current tour of India, despite the focus of their failures falling squarely on the batting. The top-order’s inability to bed in, the extra burden placed on the middle order and the lower-order rescue acts – that have only rubbed salt in the specialist batsmen’s wounds – have all been analysed in the aftermath of the defeats at Visakhapatnam and Pune. So some attention ahead of the final Test in Ranchi will turn to the bowlers, who acknowledge they have also found it difficult to find form.

“We’ve been put under immense pressure,” Kagiso Rabada said. “I don’t know if we can be put more pressure than that.”

India piled on totals in excess of 500 and 600 in the first innings of the two Tests, where South Africa were not only unable to control their scoring rate but also failed to bowl them out. In fact, South Africa last took 20 wickets in a Test match nine months and five Tests ago, when they beat Pakistan at home. Since then, South Africa have failed to bowl both Sri Lanka and India out twice each, albeit it in vastly different conditions.

At home against Sri Lanka, where South Africa generally rely on their quicks, they lacked the firepower to remove Sri Lanka’s tail. In India, where South Africa attempted to counter conditions with a more spin-heavy attack, their slower bowlers barely threatened and their fast men have also appeared ineffective, even when conditions have offered some assistance such as on the first morning in Pune.

ALSO READ: Markram, de Bruyn, Bavuma and SA at a crossroads

Rabada, who is South Africa’s leading seamer, only has four wickets from two matches, half that of Mohammed Shami and two fewer than Umesh Yadav. He believes the difference between the two packs has been the home team’s ability to generate some reverse-swing, while South Africa have not found any. “They got the ball to reverse and they bowled well as a collective,” Rabada said. “Their whole attack put pressure on us in every single aspect. Their spinners bowled well and when the ball was reversing their seamers could exploit that. We didn’t really get the ball to reverse and that’s a major weapon of ours.”

That’s not the only reason for South Africa’s lack of success. Often, they have bowled too wide and as Shami showed, attacking the stumps brings reward. More often, they have not found the right length, relying on short balls when pitching it up has proved more successful for India. Overall, South Africa lack the pace and penetration sides of the past have had on the subcontinent with no-one able to emulate Dale Steyn. There is also the issue of inexperience. Rabada, though tasked with being the frontman, is only 24 and it should be Vernon Philander who leads the attack but he has struggled on unhelpful surfaces. Anrich Nortje is on his first tour and Lungi Ngidi, who is in the squad, has not been passed fit enough to play a Test yet.

All that has put South Africa in a difficult position, from which few can see a way out. Rabada is taking the long view and hopes that this is merely a result of one era ending as another has yet to begin. “It’s never nice to lose, especially in the manner we’re losing right now but we’re going through a transition period,” he said. “Our team is fresh and young, so the best thing we can do is look at where we can improve and remember our strengths and build on them.”

The trouble is that for most of Rabada’s career South Africa have been in the same position. He made his Test debut in India by this time four years ago and then South Africa’s best period came in the 2017-18 home summer when they beat Zimbabwe, Bangladesh, India, and Australia at home. But their form has since been patchy as they search for consistency. Rabada hopes something can start in Ranchi, where South Africa will look to put in a better all-round display. “From a physical point of view we need to execute our skills and from a mental point of view, we need to believe we can do it in certain situations,” he said. It’s a balance we’re working on.”



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Justin Langer told me I’m an idiot – Mitchell Marsh

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Mitchell Marsh received a succinct response from Australia coach Justin Langer after he suffered a broken right hand from punching the dressing room wall at the WACA on Sunday.

“He just told me I’m an idiot basically. He was disappointed for me,” Marsh said as he spoke to reporters with his right hand in a cast. “It certainly will be an isolated incident, that’s for sure, and it won’t be happening again.”

Marsh faces up to six weeks on the sidelines which is likely to rule him out of both Tests against Pakistan and he may just get one more Sheffield Shield match before it breaks for the BBL in mid-December.

“It’s pretty uncharacteristic of me to want to punch a wall. I’m a pretty easy-going sort of bloke,” he said. “I’m just disappointed really, gutted. The feeling of letting your team-mates down and not being able to be a part of the journey for the next four to six weeks, that was the point I wanted to stress to the lads, that I was really sorry and it’s not an example I wanted to be setting. They got around me. They still love me, so it’s all good.”

Marsh was an incumbent in the Test side following his recall for the final match of the Ashes although there was no guarantee that he would have been retained for the Pakistan series.

Australia’s second Test assignment of the season is a three-match series against New Zealand which begins in Perth on December 12.

Western Australia could now be without their captain for half of the Sheffield Shield campaign. Following the BBL, the competition resumes in mid-February for the final four rounds.



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New South Wales forced to move match after SCG pitch suffers rugby damage

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New South Wales have been forced to move their first home Sheffield Shield match of the season against Tasmania away from the SCG amid concerns about the surface.

The wicket block was damaged when the Sydney Roosters rugby league team trained at the ground a fortnight ago ahead of the NRL Grand Final, and it has been decided the surface is not fit to host first-class cricket. The actual pitch designated for the Shield match would have been playable, but the rest of the square would not have been able to take the traffic of a four-day game.

The match will now likely be played at Drummoyne Oval with next week’s Marsh Cup match against Tasmania on October 23 also under threat of being moved.

ALSO READ: Everybody loses in Sydney’s turf wars

“We were unaware there was a problem until this morning,” Lee Germon, the NSW chief executive, said. “Our cricketers love playing at the SCG, which is the traditional home of NSW cricket. It is a great disappointment to our players and everyone at Cricket NSW that we can no longer play there over the next week.”

The increase in domestic fixtures at the SCG had been a significant win for New South Wales when the schedules were announced earlier this season, with four of their five home Sheffield Shield matches set for the Test venue.

“Our male players were looking forward to playing four of their five home Shield matches and a one-day match at the SCG this season, something that has rarely happened over the past decade or so,” Germon said. “Our off-season training and planning was based squarely around the fact that most of our matches would be at the SCG this season, creating an extra buzz of excitement.

“It is important that our current and future international cricketers have the opportunity to play as much cricket as possible on the SCG. This is particularly so early in the season when many of our senior players are available for the Sheffield Shield ahead of the international season.”

There was an increase in the amount of winter sport played at the SCG this year due to the demolition of the Allianz Stadium next door.

The SCG has resisted a move to the drop-in pitches which are seen at Adelaide, Melbourne and the new Perth Stadium.

The ground hosts its first international of the season on November 3 with a T20I against Pakistan.



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