Early reunion for old foes – Australia vs England semi-final preview
Today sees the first semi-final of an unexpectedly successful Champions Trophy between those old foes England and Australia at Centurion. With the format of the tournament ensuring that every match has something riding on it the 50 over game has received a much needed boost. Indeed the Champions Trophy compares favourably with the ridiculously long and overblown World Cup and of course those dreadful seven match long series that are unfortunately becoming more and more prevalent.
Talking of seven match series, today will see an early reunion for England and Australia, following the latter’s 6-1 victory in the recent Nat West series in the mother country. It will be interesting to see how much bearing this will have on today’s game as despite the defeat on Tuesday to New Zealand, England appeared to have been rejuvenated since arriving on South African soil.
The middle order of Owais Shah, Paul Collingwood and Eoin Morgan, which so underperformed against Australia, were the mainstay of the batting during victories over Sri Lanka and the hosts. Collingwood has shown the danger in writing him off (like so many pundits were too quick to do) and has discovered a new found aggressive approach, which has so far paid dividends. Morgan has been a revelation and his two very different innings against Sri Lanka and South Africa invoked comparisons with Neil Fairbrother and Marcus Trescothick – two of England’s best one day players in the last 20 years. He may even have done enough to force his way into the Test squad for the series against the Proteas. Of the bowlers, James Anderson has been the pick and showed the benefit of the rest he had during the Nat West series.
England have two concerns to contend with before picking their side. Stuart Broad, who has also impressed so far and is England’s leading wicket taker with 10, injured a buttock muscle in the New Zealand match and faces a fitness test before the game. Matt Prior is still suffering from illness, so if he doesn’t recover in time then either Eoin Morgan or Stephen Davies will wear the gloves, with the latter option likely to see Ravi Bopara dropped. Adil Rashid may also enter the equation on what has been a spin friendly Centurion surface. If he plays it will likely be at the expense of Luke Wright.
Australia, who are the only team yet to lose a match, also have their injury concerns with Michael Clarke and Nathan Bracken both having already been ruled out of the competition. Clarke’s absence has left Australia prone to the sort of middle order collapse that so nearly cost them the game against Pakistan. The experienced Bracken is also missed for his variety and skill bowling at the death. On a positive note though, Mike Hussey seems to have regained both form and confidence, Tim Paine continues to impress both as opening batsman and as keeper, and Brett Lee and Nathan Hauritz have both bowled well.
Although David Hussey has belatedly joined the squad to replace Clarke, he has only just arrived in South Africa and therefore unlikely to play. If he does it will likely be at the expense of Callum Ferguson who seems to have lost the good form he showed in the early games of the Nat West series.
So, assuming that both Broad and Prior are passed fit, we can expect the following line-ups:
Strauss (C), Denly, Shah, Collingwood, Morgan, Prior, Broad, Rashid, Swann, Anderson, Onions
Watson, Paine, Ponting (C), Hussey, Ferguson, White, Hopes, Johnson, Lee, Hauritz, Siddle
Having seen only one of his four predicted semi-finalists emerge from the Group stages, this correspondent is loathe to predict the winner of this semi-final. But as I predicted that Australia would win the tournament, I have to stick with them especially as I believe the hangover from the Nat West series will make it very difficult for England.
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