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Stokes-Morgan combine knocks Australia out

Wisden India logo Wisden India 10-06-2017
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England’s incredible and massively entertaining approach of ‘attack, come what may’ came to the fore again, and with excellent results, as Ben Stokes and Eoin Morgan combined to blast Australia out of the Champions Trophy 2017 with a 40-run win (DLS method) at Edgbaston on Saturday (June 10).

Full scorecard: England vs Australia

The result meant Bangladesh qualified for the semifinal of a world event for the first time, England having already sealed the top spot from Group A, while Australia joined New Zealand among teams leaving early.

A position of 35 for 3 in six overs after losing the top three batsmen in a chase of 278 with the opposition pacers on fire is supposed to be trouble. Not for England, though, as Stokes and Morgan mercilessly counter-attacked from there in a 159-run stand to grab the game by the scruff of the neck.

Complete coverage: ICC Champions Trophy

Stokes made his third One-Day International ton while Morgan fell 13 short, only because he was run out. The duo provided the thrills, but the victory was set up by the bowling pair of Mark Wood and Adil Rashid. They bagged four wickets apiece to help England restrict Australia to 277 for 9 despite three batsmen – Aaron Finch (68), Steven Smith (56) and Travis Head (71 not out) – making half-centuries. England then raced to 240 for 4 in 40.2 overs – well ahead of the DLS par score of 200 – when rain ended the game.

England’s chase started with Jason Roy falling to Mitchell Starc in the second ball and Alex Hales following in the next over off Josh Hazlewood. And when rain arrived after Joe Root too nicked one off Hazlewood in the sixth over, Australia were almost desperate not to leave the field. Understandably so, as they were supposed to be the team with an upper hand during the 42-minute rain interval.

But it all changed drastically before the blink of an eye on the other side of the break. The remarkable turnaround began with Morgan hitting two fours off Starc, and carried on once Stokes got going. Much to Australia’s agony, it never really ended.

Photos: Cricketers — Then and now

Cricketers: Then and now

Morgan got an early life on 12 when Matthew Wade spilled a chance down leg side. It was an error Australia would rue, as the England captain latched on to everything he could get his bat on. He danced down the track when the ball was up, and unleashed fierce pulls whenever it was pitched short. Hazlewood was in the firing line, Morgan hooking him for two sixes into the crowd.

Morgan’s aggressive approach rubbed off on Stokes, who looked in sublime touch with his timing. He too took on the short balls with disdain, one such fierce hook taking him past his half-century off just 39 balls. As many as 38 of his first 50 runs came in boundaries.

Despite the early wobbles, England raced to 100 within 15 overs, with as many as ten fours and two sixes in nine overs after the rain break. From then on, it was almost like Stokes and Morgan were just out there to entertain the record 24,227-strong crowd.

Australia threw everything at them – although they perhaps missed a trick by holding Adam Zampa back till the 19th over – but every bowler was treated with disdain. The partnership raced past 150 in 143 balls, with the batsmen matching the other in strokeplay, and Australian shoulders dropping with every run and ball.

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(Video provided by Times of India)

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Morgan was run out in the 32nd over, but by then, the equation had come down to 83 off 103. Australia were too shocked to take the opening anyway, as Glenn Maxwell’s drop off Jos Buttler showed.

Stokes meanwhile went past his century cutting Zampa to the sweeper cover fence, before rain, rather fittingly, arrived to deliver Australia the knockout punch.

Before the Stokes-Morgan show, it was the Rashid-Wood combination that set up the game. Rashid didn’t concede a single boundary while Wood was equally impressive with as many as 40 dot balls in his ten-over spell.

In total, Australia played as many as 153 dot balls but it all seemed very different when David Warner and Finch got going at the top, before Wood found Warner’s edge in the eighth over. With Smith joining Finch, Australia went past 100 in 18 overs without doing anything extravagant.

It left Rashid with a massive task to do and the legspinner rose to the occasion. He troubled Finch with accurate, skiddy bowling and the pressure resulted in the batsman lofting Stokes to cover, ending the 96-run stand.

With a legspinner in the midst of a good spell, one might have expected the left-handed Head to walk in but Australia stuck to Moises Henriques, who has an ODI batting average of 8. Henriques started well before walking straight into the temptation trap when he slogged a rare flighted ball from Rashid to mid-on.

The onus was on Smith but he too fell in a soft manner, gently chipping Wood to mid-off as Australia slipped to 181 for 4 from 136 for 1.

The momentum shifted back for a brief while with Head leading a counter-attack in a 58-run stand but Wood, combining with a splendid T20 style catch in the deep from Jason Roy, ended the threat by getting Maxwell in the 43rd over.

Rashid capitalised on the opening immediately with a double-wicket over and ran through the tail. Australia went from 239 for 4 to 254 for 9 as Head waged a lone battle at the other end. It was too little, too late as Morgan and Stokes proved.

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