The first semifinal could well be the eighth one-dayer between Australia and England. They barely finished a seven-match ODI series before they got on the plane for the Champions Trophy. So, when they square up again at the Centurion there won’t be any surprises.
Both know the strengths and weaknesses of each other and will pick their eleven accordingly. Australia have lost Michael Clarke and Nathan Bracken to injury and have not looked as solid as they usually do.
Clarke’s hitting in the slog overs and his useful left-arm spin came in handy for Ponting and he will be missed as will Bracken who could strangle batsmen in the last overs with his accurate yorkers and slower deliveries.
Australia scraped through against Pakistan in their last group game once again, showing that champion teams know how to deal with seemingly lost situations and get tough when the going is tough. They thus turned out to be the only unbeaten team in the group stage of the championship, having had their game against India drawn because of rain and coping well with the uncertain pitch at Wanderers against the West Indies.
England will be disappointed after their loss to New Zealand which meant that they ended up number two in the group. But they will also take heart from the manner in which they won the earlier two games. They were outstanding against the hosts and kept their cool even when skipper Graeme Smith was playing the one-day innings of his life.