England dump Australia from Champions Trophy

Ronan O'Connell Columnist

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    Australia squandered dominant positions with bat and then ball as they were dumped out of the Champions Trophy by England last night.

    England will enter the semi-finals bulging with confidence after an impressive all-round performance, their finest of the tournament so far.

    Australia, meanwhile, will head home from what has been a strange campaign for them, with two washouts followed by a wildly up-and-down effort yesterday.

    First Australia threw away a rollicking start with the bat, slumping from 1-136 to be 277 all out, then they bulldozed England’s top order but failed to capitalise after having them 3-35.

    A wonderfully incisive new ball spell from Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc left England in tatters.

    Starc trapped Jason Roy in front to continue the English opener’s form trough. Then Hazlewood did what he so regularly does early in an ODI innings, getting top order batsmen to edge to slips. First it was Alex Hales then Joe Root who fed the cordon.

    Soon after, rain intervened, as it has done all too often this tournament. When England returned to the crease they brought with them a fierce intensity.

    Ignoring the perilous state of their innings, English skipper Eoin Morgan set about throwing the bat at almost every delivery he faced.

    Morgan was so intent on unsettling the Aussies he even charged Josh Hazlewood and slapped him down the ground for four.

    It was a risky batting strategy but one which paid off handsomely. Within a matter of overs the momentum of the game shifted. Australia went from dominating to being under pressure.

    Timing the ball beautifully, Morgan repeatedly pierced the off side with a sequence of drives. Then, after a sedate start to his innings, Stokes began to unfurl his full range of strokes.

    In the face of this ceaseless aggression, Australia’s bowlers lost their direction. Rather than being patient, they tried too hard to produce wicket taking deliveries. Boundaries duly followed with Morgan and Stokes tearing the Australian attack to shreds.

    Smith again displayed his curious lack of confidence in Adam Zampa, using both Travis Head and Moises Henriques before the specialist spinner. By the time Zampa came on Stokes and Morgan were running rampant.

    Earlier, Australia wasted a fantastic start to their innings. At 1-136 after 22.4 overs, with Smith and Finch cruising, Australia looked capable of making a monster score of 350-plus.

    The English TV commentators were criticising the home team for looking listless in the field and their bowling, to that point, had been wayward and lacking in penetration.

    Then Australia brought England back into the match via the awfully-weak dismissals of Finch, Smith and Moises Henriques. Finch had started his innings in scratchy touch, too often looking to smash the ball to pieces, before finding some nice rhythm once he placed trust in his timing.

    Then, out of nowhere, he tried to manufacture a lofted drive from a decent delivery from Ben Stokes and skied the ball for an easy catch. It was a terribly unnecessary stroke given the English all-rounder had regularly been serving up boundary balls, conceding 0-35 from 4.4 overs up until then.

    Finch’s impatient hoick brought to the crease much-maligned all-rounder Moises Henriques, who was averaging eight with the bat from his first 10 ODIs. Henriques looked in nice touch, nailing a square drive and hammering a pull shot for successive boundaries off Stokes.

    On 17 from 17 deliveries, Henriques appeared as though he may just play his first valuable knock for Australia. Then he ill-advisedly copied Finch and tried to bludgeon a boundary from a reasonable delivery.

    Henriques was beaten in the flight by English leggie Adil Rashid, who bowled wonderfully well, and lobbed the ball to mid-on.

    The quick wickets of Finch and Henriques placed great responsibility on the blade of Smith. The Australian skipper had played a patient innings notable for the way in which he had protected his wicket, despite not being in fluent form.

    This was what made it so jarring when Smith donated his wicket to Mark Wood, spooning a gentle half volley straight to mid-off. This collapse of 3-45 left Australia to lower their gaze from a total of 350 to something closer to the 300 mark.

    Some fine bowling by Wood and Rashid further dented Australia’s ambitions and in the end they were a tad lucky just to scrap to 277. Amid the stuttering second half of their innings, Australia were guided by blossoming all-rounder Travis Head.

    The 23-year-old showed fantastic composure during his unbeaten knock of 71 from 64 balls. This continued his stunning ODI form, which has seen him make 545 runs at 61 over the past six months.

    Just as poor as Smith’s use of Zampa has been his decision to bat Henriques at four ahead of Head and Maxwell.

    Henriques is unlikely to be seen again in ODIs for some time after flopping again. This tournament has underlined that Australia looked unbalanced with three all-rounders in their top six.

    As they now switch their sights to the 2019 World Cup, addressing that issue should be a priority.

    Ronan O
    Ronan O'Connell

    Ronan O'Connell has been a journalist for well over 13 years, including nine at daily newspapers in WA. He now traverses the world as a travel photojournalist, contributing words and photography to more than 30 magazines and newspapers including CNN, BBC, The Toronto Star, The Guardian, The South China Morning Post, The Irish Examiner and The Australian Financial Review. Check out his work and follow him on Twitter @ronanoco