Australia in World Cup semis after crushing England
LONDON (AP) — Australia smothered top-ranked England by 64 runs at Lord's on Tuesday and ratcheted up the pressure on the home side to join the defending champion in the Cricket World Cup semifinals.
First into the playoffs, the Australians successfully defended a total for the fourth consecutive match, making 285-7 stand tall by bowling out England for 221 with 5.2 overs to spare. Inspired recall Jason Behrendorff claimed a maiden 5-for while fellow fast bowler Mitchell Starc grabbed four to lead the tournament wickets list with 19.
"You don't win the tournament if you don't reach the semis. That's the first bit ticked off," said Australia captain Aaron Finch, who led the effort with 100, his second century of this World Cup.
England rose to the top of the one-day rankings thanks to fearless and imaginative chases, but fell to a third defeat in seven matches in its home World Cup, all three while chasing.
No lessons were heeded from the previous defeats. England went for broke and was broken inside 14 overs when it was 53-4. Captain Eoin Morgan preached beforehand for his side to play aggressively smart, but he was out going for six at 26-2 in the sixth over. Not smart.
Only Ben Stokes tried to build partnerships and a gutsy innings of 89 with cramping calves ended in the 37th over, and so England's biggest resistance.
Consecutive losses at home for the first time since 2015 — also inflicted by Australia at Lord's — aren't fatal to England's semifinal hopes, but the team is vulnerable if it doesn't beat India or New Zealand, who are both unbeaten.
Morgan stressed their fate was still in their hands.
"We're not feeling the pressure of being favorites," he said. "We are in charge of how we go from here on in. We win two games, we definitely go through."
But this latest defeat for England also breathed more life into closest challengers Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan, each of which must still win all their remaining games to remain hopeful.
The decision at the toss was vital. Morgan won it and made Australia bat first.
"I would have bowled had I won the toss but I prefer batting first," Finch said. "Getting runs on the board means a lot in the World Cup."
That's a fact. Of 28 completed matches now, 18 have been won by teams batting first, including the last seven.
Morgan gambled on quicks Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, and Mark Wood taking wickets in ideal conditions; overcast and muggy.
All three found movement off the seam in a rousing opening but the edges, air shots, and drops near fielders faded away as Finch and David Warner came out of their bunker and confidently posted their third century stand of the tournament.
Finch and Warner have been out only once each in the first 10 overs, and still only once through seven matches. Finch was pulling too-short balls to the boundary and Warner, given three slips, soon scattered them as he hit boundaries off Archer, Woakes, and Wood.
Their fifth consecutive fifty partnership — the first by any opening pair in World Cups — came in the 12th over, and the century partnership in the 18th.
Finch reached his fifty in the 19th and Warner his in the 20th.
They were serene until on 123 in the 23rd over Warner was surprised by Moeen Ali and mistimed to backward point on 53 after 61 balls.
Finch shared 50 with Usman Khawaja then reached his 15th one-day international hundred, and seventh against England, only to depart on the next ball. He hit 11 boundaries and two sixes and left his side sitting pretty at 185-3 in the 36th over.
But his and Warner's platform was wasted. The last-overs charge didn't come. England fought back to take 5-74 — Steve Smith was loudly booed walking in and walking out on 38 — and Australia finished feeling short-changed.
Finch pulled out another ace, however. He gave the new ball to Behrendorff, who was hammered by Sri Lanka in his only World Cup appearance but was picked for the conditions at Lord's and made the ball swing and sing.
He bowled James Vince's middle stump on the second ball of the innings with an inswinger, and by the time Jonny Bairstow gave him his second wicket, England was 53-4 and its low confidence was battered again.
Starc had removed Joe Root on 8 and Morgan on 4.
Ben Stokes resisted alone with 89 despite suffering cramps in both calves, but, as in the last game against Sri Lanka against which he made 82, he watched partners throw away their wickets. He was sixth man out to a Starc yorker in the 37th over, and England lasted only eight more overs.
Behrendorff had only eight wickets previously in seven ODIs. He'd also opened for Australia in the warmup win over England in Southampton. After dismissing Vince and Bairstow again, he got Woakes, Moeen Ali, and Archer to finish with 5-44. Starc added 4-43.
"Behrendorff bowled beautifully," Finch said. "He didn't disappoint every time he was called upon."
With new tennis No. 1 Ash Barty watching from the packed stands, her Australia was back at No. 1 in the standings, overtaking New Zealand which it faces at Lord's on Saturday.