England restrict Australia to 223


English bowlers on Thursday confined Australia to a low total of 223 all out during the ICC Cricket World Cup semifinal match in Birmingham. England, bidding to reach their first final since 1992, made a sensational start against the reigning champions, taking three early wickets to leave Aaron Finch’s side in deep trouble. Later, Steve Smith’s 85-run innings guided Australia to post a respectable total.

Earlier, Australia captain Aaron Finch won the toss and decided to bat first under overcast skies in Edgbaston. Australia were off to a terrible start as they lost both inform openers Finch, David Warner and other batsman Peter Handscomb cheaply, leaving Australia crumbling at 14/3 after 6.1 overs. Pacer Chris Woakes got wickets of Warner and Handscomb while Jofra Archer removed Finch.

English bowlers were consistently troubling Aussie batsmen with fiery pace and bounce. The match had resemblance to that of first semifinal, where Indian batting lineup struggled in front of Kiwi pacers in the same manner. After the end of first powerplay, Australia’s score was 27/3, with former skipper Steve Smith and batsman Alex Carey on the crease, trying to rebuild team’s innings.

After the immediate setback, Smith and Carey weathered the storm and gathered some kind of momentum for Aussies. Together, they had 70-ball 50 run alliance and then quickly reached 100-run partnership in 120 balls. Then Rashid Khan struck twice and picked up two wickets of Carey (46) and Marcus Stoinis in quick succession to send Australia on the back foot again. Smith, Carey had 103-run partnership for the fourth wicket stand.

Amid falling of wickets, Smith picked up his half century from 72 balls. He along with Glenn Maxwell tried to build another partnership to take Australia close to a challenging total but Maxwell (22) was removed by Archer, leaving Australia at 157/6 after 34.5 overs. Then Pat Cummins was caught by Joe Root to give Rashid another victim.

Wickets were falling at regular intervals but it was Smith who held firm and was the lone fighter for Aussies. However, Mitchell Starc at the end played a pivotal role with Smith to take Australia’s score past 200. They had a 57-ball 50 run partnership but Smith couldn’t stay till the end. Before his departure, Smith played 119-ball 85 runs innings, with 6 fours. Woakes was the peak of the English bowlers as he scalped 3 wickets by giving only 20 runs in 8 overs.