Australia will look to avenge their Ashes defeat against England, when they meet the old rivals in the first semi-final of the ICC Champions Trophy here at Supersport Park in Centurion, today.
Australia, the Ashes favourites, were beaten by a buoyant English side early this summer, but Ricky Ponting’s world champions bounced back to win the ODI series that followed, beating the hosts 6-1 in the seven match series.
England arrived in Johannesburg prior to the tournament as an unfancied side, but two stunning wins in a row against Sri Lanka and South Africa earned them a semi-final berth, ending the two pre-tournament favourites’ chances in the eight nation competition.
With most players in good form, it would be an ideal opportunity for England to have a shot at one of the premier tournaments in world cricket and forget the frustrating 6-1 drubbing.
England would have been happier had they played the semi-final at the Wanderers, where conditions were ideal for their seam bowlers. But to play the semi-final at the Wanderers, they had to top Group ‘B’, but squandered that chance when they lost to New Zealand after wining their first two group games. Their defeat at the hands of Daniel Vettori’s side also meant that Sri Lanka were shunted out of the competition.
Nevertheless, they will be confident, because it was at Centurion that they beat hosts South Africa last week.
Australia, meanwhile, are the defending champions, having won the competition in 2006 and would want to continue their dominance of world cricket. They ended Group ‘A’ unbeaten. They beat West Indies convincingly, but the game against Pakistan went to the wire with Australia sealing victory off the last delivery with two wickets to spare. Their game against India, meanwhile, was washed off and they earned one point.
Along with Sri Lanka and South Africa, India was the other team that was expected to go through to the semi-finals, along with defending champions Australia. But of those four teams, three crashed in the first round and only Australia kept up to their reputation and went all the way.
While England and Australia will play the first semi-final today, New Zealand, who topped Group ‘B’, will take on Pakistan, who ended Group ‘A’ as runners-up, at the Wanderers, tomorrow.
The pitches provided for the tournament, particularly in Johannesburg have come in for criticism, as quite often teams have struggled to make runs and with one-day cricket’s existence under threat, it was hardly the show the organizers would have expected.
Andrew Strauss (Captain), James Anderson, Ravi Bopara, Tim Bresnan, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Joe Denly, Eoin Morgan, Graham Onions, Matt Prior (wk), Adil Rashid, Owais Shah, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann and Luke Wright.
Ricky Ponting (Captain), Michael Clarke, Doug Bollinger, Callum Ferguson, Nathan Hauritz, Ben Hilfenhaus, James Hopes, Michael Hussey, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Tim Paine (wk), Peter Siddle, Adam Voges, Shane Watson and Cameron White.