England's Jason Roy in action against Australia in the World Cup semi-final at Edgbaston
Birmingham (United Kingdom) (AFP) - Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow led England’s charge towards their first World Cup final since 1992 on Thursday, dominating Australia’s bowlers as they chased down a modest target of 224.
The two openers raced to 94 without loss in the 15th over, looking untroubled against the defending champions’ attack, led by left-arm paceman Mitchell Starc.
Roy, who missed three matches earlier in the tournament with an injury, was in particularly good form, hitting Starc and Nathan Lyon for sixes as the host nation closed in on a Lord’s final against New Zealand on Sunday.
Australia were in desperate need of early wickets after suffering a top-order collapse on the way to being dismissed for 223, thankful to Steve Smith for a battling innings of 85.
All three of England’s defeats this tournament have come batting second but Roy and Bairstow showed few signs of nerves in Birmingham.
Bairstow got off the mark with a square driven four off Jason Behrendorff and Roy followed up by hitting two boundaries in one over from Starc, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 26 scalps.
Earlier, Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid each took three wickets as Australia were bowled out with an over to spare.
Woakes struck twice early on at his Warwickshire home ground as Australia slumped to 14-3 after winning the toss.
England's Chris Woakes (left) celebrates his dismissal of Australia's Peter Handscomb in the World Cup semi-final at Edgbaston
Australia’s prolific opening pair of David Warner and Aaron Finch, as well as Peter Handscomb, were all back in the pavilion by the seventh over.
Warner, who walked out to boos because of his role in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year, returned to even louder jeers after being dismissed for nine.
Smith, who was also given a 12-month ban for his part in the incident, was given a similar greeting when he made his way to the wicket.
- Rashid strikes -
Smith and Alex Carey steadied the innings with a fourth-wicket stand of 103 before leg-spinner Rashid (3-54) struck twice in five balls.
Australia wicketkeeper Carey, who scored 46, had his helmet knocked off by a Jofra Archer bouncer and required several minutes of on-field treatment.
With his head swathed in a bandage, Carey resumed his innings but in sight of a fifty he hoisted Rashid straight to substitute fielder James Vince at deep midwicket.
Australia continued to lose wickets but Smith received good support from Starc (29) in an eighth-wicket stand of 51 until Smith was run out by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler’s direct hit.
Archer, who took 2-32, said: “From the New Zealand game it’s all been a semi-final for us so we just need to keep winning.
”(Glenn) Maxwell was my favourite wicket because he got me out at Lord’s so it’s good to get him back. Smith batted really well today, especially on this pitch.
“It nipped a lot more than it swung so we held the ball back and used more cross-seam deliveries.”
Reaching the World Cup final would be a major statement of intent for an England side that have underperformed in so many previous World Cups.
Their last appearance at a final was in 1992, when they lost to Imran Khan’s Pakistan.
England’s woeful first-round exit at the 2015 edition prompted a complete rethink of their approach to one-day internationals for a side that had long placed Test success above all other considerations.
Australian coach Trevor Bayliss was drafted in with the aim of guiding their bid for a first World Cup title.
The transformation has been impressive, with England climbing to number one in the ODI rankings under the astute captaincy of Eoin Morgan.
Their rise to the summit has been based on dynamic run-scoring, with Roy and Bairstow leading the way at the top of the order and Ben Stokes and Buttler adding enormous power in the engine room of the side.
The addition of fast bowler Archer has given the host nation an enviable pace attack and the weapons to hurt the opposition.