The first semifinals of the ICC Champions Trophy could well be the 8th one-dayer between the Australians and the Englishmen. They barely finished a seven match one-day series a few days before they got on the plane to travel to South Africa for the Champions Trophy and so when they square up again at the Centurion to play for a place in the final there won’t be any surprises for the teams.
Both surely know the strengths and weaknesses of each other by now and will try and pick their playing eleven accordingly.
Australia have lost out on Michael Clarke and Nathan Bracken through injury and so have not looked as solid as they usually do. Clarke’s hitting in the slog overs as well as his useful left-arm spin came in handy for Ponting and he will be missed as will Bracken who could strangle the batsmen in the last overs with his accurate yorkers and slower deliveries.
The Australians scraped through against the Pakistanis 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. That they have always have had a ‘never say die’ approach to sport is well-known and it was evident in that game against the Pakistanis.
The Australians 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 having coped well with the uncertain pitch at Wanderers against the West Indies.
They are the defending champions and it’s going to take something special to stop them winning this one too.
England will be disappointed after their loss to New Zealand which meant that they ended up as number two in the group and thus now have to face the old enemy Australia rather than Pakistan but they will also take heart from the manner in which they have won the earlier two matches.
They were outstanding against the hosts South Africa and kept their nerve even when the Proteas skipper Graeme Smith was playing the one-day innings of his life.
Swann, the key
The England team has a good blend of seam and spin attack and if the Centurion pitch does afford a bit of turn then the Aussie nemesis, Greame Swann will be the one to watch out for. Paul Collingwood is batting splendidly and Owais Shah is coming into his own at just the right time.
England will be hoping that they get off to a good start for then it becomes a lot easier for the likes of the in-form Collingwood and Shah to bat freely than look to build the innings up from scratch.
England will also be a lot more confident after winning the last game of their seven-match series but the Aussies always come back stronger after an Ashes series loss and so look incredibly determined to demolish other teams and show that what happened in the Test series was just one bad day at the office.
Professional Management Group