England swaggered into their first World Cup final in 27 years, blowing away rivals Australia by eight wickets in a magnificent display of attacking cricket that sets up a winner-takes-all date with New Zealand at Lord’s.
The three-times runners-up are now firm favourites to land the trophy for the first time on Sunday, having thrashed the Black Caps by 119 runs in the group stage, and head to the home of cricket on the back of a sensational performance at Edgbaston.
Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer and Adil Rashid performed wonders with the ball after Australia chose to bat first, reducing the visitors to 14 for three in a frenzied opening burst and ultimately restricting them to a lacklustre 223 all out.
England would have been mindful that they were bowled out for 221 and beaten by the same attack last month, but Jason Roy missed that game with a torn hamstring and his brilliant 85 put the game beyond a shellshocked Australia, who went down with 107 balls remaining.
Having already thrashed nine fours and five sixes, he would surely have gone on to a career-best hundred had he not been robbed in messy circumstances. Given caught behind despite making no contact with the ball, he instantly called for a review only to belatedly realise Jonny Bairstow had already used it up.
Roy lost his cool, remonstrating on the pitch and on his reluctant walk off, and needed soothing words from umpire Marais Erasmus to stop things getting worse.
The sour tone of his dismissal cannot detract from his outstanding efforts, which almost single-handedly banished England’s concerns about chasing, nor from the raucous celebrations which followed on the back of a decisive stand of 79 between Joe Root (49no) and Eoin Morgan (45no).
Archer and Woakes also excelled, taking two for 32 and three for 20, while Rashid bagged three scalps in his best display to date.
Both captains had hoped to win the toss and bat first, following the trend of the tournament, but it fell Aaron Finch’s way.
Any satisfaction he felt only lasted as long as it took Kumar Dharmasena to confirm his first-ball duck, pinned lbw by Archer’s opening delivery. Finch has scored seven ODI centuries in this fixture, including one in the group phase, but on the biggest stage yet he was reduced to an also-ran.
A predictable chorus of boos erupted as the unpopular pairing of Steve Smith and David Warner came together – the first of many audible jeers for the pair – but their stand was fleeting.
Warner fenced Woakes to slip for nine before Birmingham’s hometown favourite cleaned up Peter Handscomb for four via an inside edge.
The innings threatened to nosedive entirely when Archer rattled Alex Carey with a bouncer, cutting open his chin and dislodging the helmet in one bone-crunching impact. Had his headguard hit the stumps it would have been 19 for four, but Carey had enough about him to trap it with his arm.
He and Smith would go on to add 103, a battling, stern-faced stand that restored a semblance of stability but which looked like a museum piece when compared to England’s reply.
Carey (46) was one of two wickets in Rashid’s fifth over, caught at deep midwicket, before Marcus Stoinis was bamboozled by a googly. He later added a third when Pat Cummins poked to slip.
Smith’s tunnel vision nudged the total past 200, but there was no support – Glenn Maxwell deceived by Archer, Woakes besting Mitchell Starc and Jason Behrendorff yorked by Mark Wood. He finally departed for 85, run out by the alert Jos Buttler.
So much of England’s recent success has been built around their opening pair, the relentless Bairstow and the fearless Roy, and they stood up for their team once again.
The powerplays had offered slim pickings for their fellow semi-finalists, with India, New Zealand and Australia putting on scores of 24 for four, 27 for one and 27 for three in the first 10 overs.
Brushing that to one side they stared down the quicks to add 50 without loss. Thirty of those came in boundaries, both men driving through cover and point and Roy adding a flicked six over fine leg when Starc strayed.
Australia quickly summoned spin, but Nathan Lyon’s first over was blasted for 13, Roy slapping his first ball down the ground for six before middling a reverse-sweep.
The start of Starc’s second spell was another tipping point, shipping 15 as both openers drove him hard in the ‘v’.
With Plan A going up in smoke, Finch gambled on Plan B, Smith’s part-time leg-spin. Roy greedily accepted the invitation to swing hard, launching three successive sixes over long-on. The last was a monstrous strike, the first to land in the top tier of this stadium in international cricket.
Bairstow was unable to kick on, lbw to Starc for 34, a record 27th tournament wicket for the left-armer. More importantly, though, Bairstow used England’s review, a fact that would come to haunt his partner.
Given out to a steepler from Cummins, Roy instantly signalled for DRS with neither he nor Dharmasena aware the allocation had been taken. It took a reminder from Australia’s fielders to quash the process, leaving Roy to remonstrate long and loud before accepting his fate.
The result itself was already settled, with Root and Morgan romping home to chants of “cricket’s coming home”. The pair shared 16 boundaries in a freewheeling partnership, the last of which sailing off Morgan’s bat and over mid-on to kick off the fireworks.