A team that simply refuses to lose comes up against one that has devised novel ways of courting failure in big tournaments, in the first semifinal of the Champions Trophy when Australia take on England at SuperSport Park on Friday.
While Australia have been stretched more than most expected — West Indies gave them a fright early on and they took all of 50 overs to chase down a modest total against Pakistan — England have surprised with a couple of clinical performances.
As Andrew Strauss has pointed out, England are very good when they get their act together. The problem is that when this does not happen, they are barely competitive.
If you wanted an insight into just how much these global events mean to the Australian team, look no further than their most recent match. Even as Pakistan tightened the screws in a tricky chase on a sluggish pitch, Australia’s lower order and tail refused to be denied. Not one batsman threw his wicket away, and even the tailenders had to be prised out, either through a good delivery or a well set-up passage of pressure play.
Perhaps it’s the sense of occasion and the grand stage that brings out the combatants in the Australians, but the force is certainly with them when it comes to the semifinal.
In the absence of Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey have raised their game, making up for the loss of experience in the middle order.
Brett Lee and Mitchell Johnson have bowled fast and with control. The one point of concern will be the extended role spinners are expected to play in Centurion. Nathan Hauritz will have to shoulder this burden, especially if Australia have to bowl second.
England wear a settled look despite the fact that they’re missing their two best ODI players — Andrew Flintoff and Kevin Pietersen. With Stuart Broad tearing a buttock muscle, Strauss has been given a fresh riddle to wrestle with, but this could come as a blessing in disguise as legspinner Adil Rashid will be a handful in these conditions.