Australia v England: Aussie pacemen could make the difference

Cricketer Mitchell Starc
Mitchell Starc is the tournament's leading wicket taker

Paul Krishnamurty previews the second semi-final, for which he reckons Australia rate good value to break English hearts...

"There was nothing flukey about Australia's 64 run victory in the group. For all their batting power and depth, England couldn't handle Starc and Jason Behrendorff."

Back Australia 3u @ 2.285/4

Australia v England
Thursday, 10:30 BST
Live on Sky Sports Cricket and Betfair Live Video

Having survived a massive qualification scare, the host nation's dream of winning their first World Cup remains very much alive. To sustain it and reach their first final since 1992, England will need to beat their oldest rival and, in doing so, reverse a heavy defeat earlier in the tournament.

Aussies have dispelled doubts and defied pundits

In keeping with 50-over cricket in general, the formbook has stood up well. Very few pundits doubted England, India and Australia would reach the semis, while New Zealand were a popular alternative.

One aspect which many of us and to some extent the betting got wrong, however, was underestimating the Aussies. Perhaps they are still only third best but the gap is evidently narrower than five weeks ago.

The doubts were of course legitimate. Nobody knew how they would react to all the controversy and upheaval regarding David Warner and Steve Smith's return to international cricket. Nor whether Mitchell Starc would be the same force as in 2015. After 932 runs from the former pair, and 26 wickets from the latter, we can safely say they delivered beyond the most optimistic expectations.

Defeat to South Africa in Saturday's dead rubber perhaps take some of the shine off but I wouldn't read anything into it. The Aussies have now won 15 of their last 17 matches and, before the World Cup, eight on the bounce came against India and Pakistan.

England's response to crisis was superb

As for England, their wobble not only livened up the tournament but perhaps brought an overdue sense of realism. Yes, they have been the best ODI side of recent years but as Sri Lanka proved, nothing can be taken for granted at this elite level.

England have been outstanding in their two latest must-win matches, doing what they do best - compiling unattainable totals. In comfortably defeating India and fellow semi-finalists New Zealand, their pedigree has been re-affirmed.

Aussie bowlers could provide the key edge

Nevertheless, I must question their status as clear favourites here. There was nothing flukey about Australia's 64-run victory over them in the group. For all their batting power and depth, England couldn't handle Starc and Jason Behrendorff - let alone hit them out of the park.

For my money, the general rule to follow in elite level cricket is that bowlers win matches. Only by controlling the scoring rate and take wickets during the middle overs, can totals be contained.

Bowling isn't England's strength but, to be fair, they have delivered. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood have 33 wickets combined, while Chris Woakes has also been excellent and unlucky on occasion.

Nevertheless I rate the Aussie pace trio as a superior combination and Starc is frankly unplayable at times. Given that their batsmen have also performed, with the top order thriving, patriotic concerns must be put aside. 2.285/4 about such an in-form outfit, boasting a vast advantage in terms of handling pressure in previous World Cups, must be the bet.

300 looks a winning total at Edgbaston

Pre-tournament, Edgbaston was on my list of grounds liable to yield extremely high totals. With a firm pitch, 400 would be possible but this surface has been slow and low.

The first two totals were 241 and 237 - both of which proved competitive if not quite enough. Since, England won with 337 and India with 315. Both scores looked and proved comfortably above par.

If 300 or more starts at odds-on in our 1st Innings Runs market, I'll be laying it, and a band around the 270 mark will be worth opposing at 1.330/100 or less.

So far as Top Australian Batsman is concerned, it is hard to argue for anyone beyond the top order. Warner and Aaron Finch have amassed 1145 runs and are perfectly reasonably value to top-score again at 11/4 and 10/3 respectively.

Root preferred amongst England batters

Eng Joe Root batting 1280.jpg

For England, Jonny Bairstow leads the market at 3/1 following consecutive tons. Jason Roy boasts the highest average and is a 10/3 chance, with Joe Root at 7/2.

These are never easy markets to differentiate but for me, Root is the best bet. He is the most consistent and, with 500, has the most runs despite not opening. With survival a more pertinent worry than against most attacks, I expect the Test captain to play a crucial anchor role.


Follow Paul on Twitter @paulmotty

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