England’s semi-final victory over Australia wasn’t shocking for the fact that England won, more for the manner in which they did it.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat first, as has been the preference for most teams throughout the tournament. Any advantage that Australia might have been looking for deteriorated, however, when England’s Jofra Archer caught captain Aaron Finch for an lbw and a Golden Duck. Australia’s opening batsmen had partnered for an average of 127 runs in this year’s tournament: threat one neutralised.
Australia’s trouble continued just a few minutes later when David Warner got an edge on a Chris Woakes ball and was caught by Jonny Bairstow at slip. Peter Handscomb – who never looked comfortable against England’s bowlers – followed that up by inside-edging another Woakes delivery onto his stumps. Australia fell to 14-3 and England fans were in the clouds.
There was still plenty of cricket to play, though, and Steve Smith was stubborn in the crease, batting his way to 85 before exiting to an outrageous nutmeg run-out from Jos Buttler. Smith was the only Australian batsman to reach his half century; the rest of the side collapsed when faced with Adil Rashid’s wicked leg-spin and sniper-like bowling from Woakes and Archer.
England had a target of 224 to chase. Enter Jason Roy.
England’s opener raced to 85 runs off 65 balls and played some exquisite shots to move England within reach of their first final for over 25 years. Roy was cruising to a century when Jonny Bairstow challenged after clearly being caught lbw by Mitchell Starc. The review didn't take long, and Bairstow was dismissed. Ten minutes later, Roy chased a Pat Cummins bouncer and was caught behind by Carey. Replays showed, however, that neither Roy’s bat nor his glove made contact with the ball.
If Roy had a challenge to use, the umpire’s decision surely wouldn’t have stood, but England had none left after Bairstow's challenge, so he had to walk. Roy was visibly frustrated that his incredible innings came to such a disappointing end.
Fortunately for England, the batsmen behind Roy were equally game and carried the team the rest of the way to the final. Joe Root hit 49 and captain Eoin Morgan 45 to finish off a dominant display, one that positions them as big favourites to take this World Cup.
New Zealand will go into the final with a lot to prove, especially after their defeat to England earlier in the tournament. Once again in that match, some wicked early bowling from England and a solid innings from their top order sealed an easy victory. New Zealand were all out for 186, and the final is England’s to lose if they can limit their opponent’s run scoring in the same way.
England’s bowlers were in imperious form against Australia, and if they can deliver with the same energy they did in the semi-final, they will have a good chance of lifting the trophy. New ball bowlers Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer went after New Zealand’s top order in their previous match, and a similarly aggressive start in the final could open the door for the win.
England’s batsmen were also impressive in the semi-final, especially in attacking the deliveries of Mitchell Starc, who has been one of the most dangerous bowlers of the tournament. Starc has 27 wickets, seven more than any other bowler, and also put up one of the best innings of the tournament when he went 5/26 against New Zealand. The England top order will be confident after dealing with everything Starc had for them, and in their current form they could run New Zealand ragged.
England certainly won’t be taking their opponents lightly, though, as the Black Caps are deserving finalists, especially after their shock victory over India in their semi-final.
The key to victory for England lies in the top order. Roy and Bairstow will need to continue producing like they have so far in the tournament, and should look to put up some good numbers before New Zealand’s fast-bowling ace Lockie Ferguson comes in to disrupt things in the middle overs.
Cricket World Cup Final betting tips
When it comes to betting on the ICC Cricket World Cup Final, you won’t get much of a return by backing England to win, as they go in as big odds-on favourites at 2/7. If you foresee an upset, you can get New Zealand to win at 23/10.
The batting markets may provide better returns. You can currently get 7/2 on Jason Roy being the top batsman of the final, while Jonny Bairstow is 4/1 and Joe Root is 11/2. Considering that these three players are England’s top three run scorers and all in the top 10 of tournament scorers, this represents excellent value. The biggest threat for New Zealand comes from Kane Williamson, who has scored 548 so far this tournament, just one run behind Joe Root, England’s leading batsman. You can get 5/1 for Williamson to score the most in the final.
The odds on Jason Roy performing well shortened after his innings against Australia, but his position in the order will also be a contributing factor. Joe Root will likely enter the crease as Lockie Ferguson comes in for New Zealand, which may inhibit the England batsman’s run scoring. Ferguson’s pace has made him one of the most economical bowlers of the World Cup, and he has averaged 19 runs per wicket and less than five runs per over. Root has the ability to score well against anyone, but he might struggle to launch himself to a century when faced with Ferguson’s match-winning pace. For that reason, stick with England's openers.