Five talking points as England take on Australia in ICC World Cup semi-final

Eoin Morgan ICC WCEngland and Australia face off in their most high-profile ODI in more than three decades as the two teams bid to join New Zealand in the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup final.

The oldest rivals in cricket will meet at Edgbaston in the second semi-final after the Black Caps got the better of India in the first.

And with the hosts taking on the defending champions, there are plenty of talking points to look forward to before the toss.

Battle of the openers

In some ways, these teams are built in similar fashion, and there is no question that their strengths lie at the top of the order.

Australian duo David Warner and Aaron Finch sit second and fourth respectively for runs scored in the tournament, while Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow have been similarly influential in England’s progress to the semi-finals.

Bairstow comes into this game off the back of two successive centuries, while Roy has made three fifties and one hundred in five innings.

In the group stage meeting between the teams, which Roy missed through injury, Australia’s opening pair put on 123, with Finch scoring a century.

England, by contrast, lost their first wicket without a run on the board. Australia will know that a repeat will be crucial to their hopes of coming out on top.

Handscomb stepping up

Australia have had to deal with their fair share of injuries during the tournament, with both Shaun Marsh and more recently Usman Khawaja being ruled out.

As a result, Justin Langer has confirmed that Peter Handscomb will come into the side and play an important role in the Australian middle order.

The 28-year-old has been in good form with Australia A in England, scoring two half-centuries in three innings.

This will be a step up in intensity however for Handscomb, who has played 21 ODIs since making his debut in 2017.

Khawaja had scored 316 runs in nine innings at an average of just over 35 in the tournament so far.

Edgbaston factor

England have enjoyed a fine run at Edgbaston across all formats, winning their last 10 internationals there, including the crucial group game against India.

Australia, by contrast, have not won at the Birmingham ground in 26 years and did not play a game there during the group stages.

Eoin Morgan admitted that recent record would be a confidence booster for England, who lost to Australia at Lord’s earlier in the competition.

The ground has more recently hosted two high-scoring encounters, England’s win over India in which both teams topped 300 runs, as well as India’s success against Bangladesh in which the teams combined to make exactly 600 runs.

Plunkett effect

England won six of nine matches in the group stages, finishing strongly with wins over India and New Zealand to secure a place in the semi-finals.

Their lucky charm has been Liam Plunkett, the fast bowler who has featured in five of England’s six victories – missing only the success against Afghanistan – but missed all three defeats.

He has taken wickets in every game, including the crucial scalps of Virat Kohli, Chris Gayle and Quinton de Kock.

What is more, Plunkett has gone for less than five an over, giving Morgan an economical option alongside Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes.

World Cup history v recent history

Although Australia won the first meeting in this tournament, recent history is very much in England’s favour including a 5-0 whitewash last summer.

That included a world-record score of 481/6 at Trent Bridge in a record defeat for the Australians against their oldest rivals.

England also claimed a 4-1 series victory in Australia on their last tour Down Under but when it comes to World Cups, Australia have a few good omens of their own.

The last meeting between the teams in the knockout stages was in the 1987 World Cup final, won by just seven runs by Australia.

That is part of a 6-2 winning record overall in World Cups, although the teams are level at one apiece in semi-finals ahead of this one, Australia triumphing in 1975 before England earned their revenge four years later.

On Thursday, that tie will be split and a place in the final against New Zealand will be the reward for the team that comes out on top.