England enter first World Cup final in 27 years after thrashing mighty Australia

England’s captain Eoin Morgan, right, and Joe Root celebrate victory after defeating Australia during the 2019 Cricket World Cup second semifinal at Edgbaston in Birmingham, England, on July 11, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 12 July 2019

England enter first World Cup final in 27 years after thrashing mighty Australia

  • Defending champions Australia lost a semifinal for the first time in their country’s history
  • Many now consider England to be the favorites for Sunday’s final against New Zealand

KARACHI: The 2019 cricket World Cup’s penchant for throwing up surprises will continue to the final where one team will win the trophy for the very first time. Defending champions Australia lost a semifinal for the first time in their country’s history in eight matches as hosts England entered the final for the first time since 1992 with a comprehensive victory.
England’s openers, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, launched a ferocious assault on a small target to overwhelm their arch-rivals early on in the chase. After following the tournament-specific tactic of starting cautiously, they tore into the Australian attack soon afterward, with Roy in particular playing a vicious innings. It followed a similarly aggressive and successful start for their bowlers in the morning after Australia had won the toss and chose to bat. Both Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer delivered sublime spells as Australia were reduced to 14/3. But if in that moment it felt like the match was wrapped up, history seemed to suggest otherwise.
Australia are no strangers to early collapses in semifinals. They had poor starts in the semifinals in each of 1996 (15/4 vs West Indies), 1999 (68/4 vs South Africa) and 2003 (51/3 vs Sri Lanka) and each time had recovered to post what was a winning total. Indeed, the 223 they reached here was the third highest score they had ever made in a semifinal, built largely off Steve Smith’s typically resilient and unorthodox 85. 
Smith’s innings, and the way it ensured his team almost batted out their quota of overs as well as posted a defendable total in a high-pressure game, was the umpteenth example of what cricket writer John Arlott once described as Australianism: “Where the impossible is within the realm of what the human body can do, there are Australians who believe they can do it, and who have succeeded often enough to make us wonder if anything is impossible to them.” This has been a trait inherent to Australian cricket throughout its history, which is why it has spent over a hundred years almost always being the best or one of the best teams in the sport.
But perhaps more gallingly, despite having won five trophies and played in seven finals of the eleven World Cups so far, Australia as a society doesn’t even really care for these wins. In India, both the 1983 and 2011 victories led to transformative changes in cricket’s place and popularity in society. In Pakistan and Sri Lanka, their sole wins led to several players joining politics, with Pakistan’s then captain Imran Khan currently ruling the country. For the West Indies, the two wins were part of an era where they were the best side in history and used their wins to make a political statement about racism.
In contrast, as Australian journalist Geoff Lemon explained, Australian fans were barely likely to even care. “If this team wins it, people back home would say ‘oh yeah? Won the World Cup? That’s good…’ and then forget about it in a week. It doesn’t really penetrate the public consciousness… Because you go, ‘oh yeah, winning the world cup, the thing we do all the time.’”
Just for this reason alone, the sport was crying out for a change in narrative. But Australia’s Australianism had kept rescuing them throughout this tournament. They were in huge trouble against Afghanistan, West Indies and Pakistan and yet they won all three matches. They had spent the past few years in woeful form; yet they only lost two games in the group stages, a time when many teams’ fortunes felt up in the air. Up until lunch in this match, you were loath to count them out. But then, Roy and Bairstow came out to bat, and in a little over an hour, Australia were exposed as a severely limited side, the one that had been blown away 5-0 by England in an ODI series not so long back.
England carried plenty of their own World Cup traumas coming into this match. Having invented the ODI format, the side was ahead of many in having specialized players or tactics for the format in the early World Cups, reaching three finals in the first five editions. But since then, England had seemed to desire the role of being the butt of all jokes at the end of each World Cup. With a strange aversion to the format and defiantly outdated approaches, they were embarrassed many times over the past three decades, having not won a single knockout match since reaching the 1992 final.
Since the last World Cup, England finally broke with tradition and actively sought this trophy, radically reforming their side. It helped that they could use the country’s colonial past and high living standard to ‘shop’ for players, with several in the current side having been born elsewhere and getting citizenship to play for England. For example, their captain, Eoin Morgan, was considered the best player Ireland had ever produced. But even with this new look, England had seen its knockout round horrors. In the 2016 World T20 final, the West Indies needed an impossible-sounding 19 off the final over or England would have won. Carlos Braithwaite chose that moment to write his name in history. A year later, the 2017 Champions Trophy, played in England, was expected to be this talented group’s first title. Instead, they were imperiously outplayed by Pakistan in the semifinal, who went on to take the trophy instead.
When the team began complaining of pitches and getting prickly about their approach in this tournament following shock defeats to Pakistan and Sri Lanka as well as to Australia, many felt that England’s old demons were returning. But to their credit, England held onto their belief in themselves as they won a bunch of must-win games under pressure. It said so much about their team that they were able to absolutely pulverize Australia here, breaking down many World Cup myths and traditions in the process.
Many would now consider England to be the favorites for Sunday’s final against New Zealand, though as this tournament has consistently shown, no side is without flaws. After four years of global ODI cricket being mostly played out on the flattest of pitches and the easiest of conditions, this World Cup has kept throwing enough spanners in the works to keep everyone guessing. The final would likely be no different.


Saudi Arabia wins gold in GCC Women’s Championship

Updated 21 October 2019

Saudi Arabia wins gold in GCC Women’s Championship

KUWAIT: Saudi fencer Hasnaa Hammad on Monday earned her country its first medal on the second day of the GCC Women’s Championship in Kuwait.

She won the gold medal by beating Emirati Shahed Khurram 15 points to 6. Princess Nouf bint Khalid, head of the Saudi delegation, said what Hammad has achieved is evidence that Saudi sportswomen are capable of achieving victory and winning medals.

Meanwhile, the Saudi bowling team started competing, with Hadeel Termin topping the rankings of Saudi players in singles competition, and earning ninth position among 20 players from five countries.

Her teammates Mashael Alabdel Wahed ranked 13th, Ghada Nimr 17th and Amani Al-Ghamdi 18th.