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Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes changed momentum of the match: Michael Hussey

England defeated Australia by 40 runs (DLS) to knock the reigning world champions out of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017.

icc champions trophy 2017 Updated: Jun 11, 2017 13:43 IST
Michael Hussey
Michael Hussey
ICC Champions Trophy,Champions Trophy 2017,Eoin Morgan
England's Eoin Morgan (R) and Ben Stokes (L) touch gloves during the ICC Champions Trophy match vs Australia at Edgbaston in Birmingham on Saturday.(AFP)

It was fitting really that the rain came down in Birmingham, ending Australia’s ICC Champions Trophy 2017 campaign. Each of Australia’s match was affected by weather, which made it difficult for the players to get some momentum and continuity in the tournament.

Coming into the must-win match against England, my biggest concerns from an Australian point of view were that England had confidence and momentum, and because it had already qualified for the semi-finals, could play with freedom, which is a dangerous recipe.

READ | ICC Champions Trophy: Ben Stokes’ talent can ‘go through roof’, says Eoin Morgan

Australia batsmen would have prepared well in the nets, but nothing beats match intensity and I was concerned that the batsmen would be rusty after very little time in the middle in match situations due to the weather intervening in previous matches.

A common theme of Australia team meetings is that one of the top four batsmen needs to take the responsibility and score a big hundred for it. The Australia top-four got starts and all, except for David Warner, would be disappointed with the way they were dismissed by giving their wicket away.

At one stage, Australia was well placed at 161 for two in the 27th over, but none of the top four could kick on and score a century.

England bowlers deserve credit as they bowled very well, building pressure on what looked to be a good batting pitch. Mark Wood and Adil Rashid picked up wickets at regular intervals, which made it difficult for Australia to accelerate the run-rate at the end of the innings.

At the halfway mark of the match, Australia would have been slightly disappointed with 277 on the board, but would have believed it could win if early wickets were taken. Things were looking good at 6 for two and when Joe Root was dismissed with only 35 on the board, the game was in Australia’s favour.

What came next was a partnership of the highest quality.

READ | VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS: England vs Australia, ICC Champions Trophy 2017

It was amazing how quickly Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes changed the momentum of the game and then sprinted towards the finish-line. Without fear they played their shots in a positive manner, putting the pressure back on the Australian attack.

Australia’s best bowler has been Josh Hazlewood, with his strength being his immaculate line and length. He picked up the two early wickets of Alex Hales and Joe Root with excellent deliveries, where both batsmen didn’t do much wrong and were beaten by good bowling.

There was a short rain delay, which possibly curbed Australia’s momentum and gave England a chance to re-group.

After resumption, both Stokes and Morgan played with control, confidence and composure, timing the ball beautifully and the partnership grew quickly. Morgan often looked to advance down the pitch to disrupt Hazlewood’s consistent and disciplined bowling which paid dividends, and Stokes played some powerful drives down the ground mixed with some vicious pulls putting the Australian attack on the back foot.

Steve Smith tried everything, swinging his bowling options around with no luck and it seemed only a runout would break the partnership. Adam Zampa obliged by running out Eoin Morgan for 87, but Jos Butler came to the crease and kept the momentum going for England with 29 not out from only 32 balls.

READ | Ben Stokes ton propels England in chase vs Australia at Edgbaston

It was, however, Ben Stokes’ day, as the rain came again and not abate, he remained on 102 not out from 109 balls, and England 40 runs ahead on the DLS method and a worthy man of the match recipient.

England has found a formula for success which is to play with freedom, with each player knowing his role and knowing he has the backing of the coach, captain and selectors to play his way.

The challenge will be to play in the same manner in their finals campaign, which is easier said than done.

It wasn’t Australia’s day and England deserved to win as it played the better cricket on Saturday. As a result, it’s on to the semi-finals for England with confidence and momentum, and for Australia it is another disappointing ICC Champions Trophy and time to head home.

First Published: Jun 11, 2017 12:32 IST