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England, after two back-to-back victories over India and New Zealand in league stage matches, are gearing up to face arch-rivals Australia in the second semi-final of World Cup 2019 at Edgbaston on Thursday. In the league stage match, Australia had comfortably thumped England by 64 runs at the Lord’s on June 25. Chasing 286, none of the England batsmen could score big and the team was eventually bundled out for 221. However, England’s confidence boosted after the return of opener Jason Roy and they played stupendous cricket, the way they began their World Cup campaign, later on.
England’s woeful first-round exit at the 2015 edition prompted a complete rethink of their approach to one-day internationals for a side that had long placed Test success above all other considerations.
Australian coach Trevor Bayliss was drafted in with the aim of guiding their bid for a first World Cup title.
The transformation has been impressive, with England climbing to number one in the ODI rankings under the astute captaincy of Eoin Morgan.
Their rise to the summit has been based on dynamic run-scoring, with in-form openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow leading the way.
But the stakes for hosts England are higher than simply the winning of a match that would see them into a final against either India or New Zealand at Lord’s on Sunday.
Satellite subscription host broadcaster Sky has said it will allow the final to be shown on free-to-air television in Britain — but only if England are involved in the showpiece match.
It would be the first time since 2005 that a major England men’s home match had emerged from behind a UK television paywall, with cricket having a chance to reconnect with a ‘lost’ audience in its birthplace.
Australia, however, have never lost any of their seven previous World Cup semi-finals — although they did tie with South Africa at Edgbaston 20 years ago before advancing into the final on superior net run-rate.
They landed a psychological blow in the group stage when they beat Ashes rivals England by 64 runs at Lord’s last month.
Australia left-arm quicks Jason Behrendorff and Mitchell Starc shared nine wickets between them in a match where Australia captain Aaron Finch made 100 after surviving a testing opening from England’s fast bowlers.
Roy, however, was missing with a torn hamstring and since his return, England have scored crucial wins over India and New Zealand that took them into the semi-finals.
Five-time world champions Australia will pitch late call-up Peter Handscomb straight into Thursday’s match after fellow batsman Usman Khawaja suffered a tournament-ending hamstring injury against South Africa.
(With AFP inputs)