Well I’m not sure many would have predicted that!
Just as we thought England were going to enjoy a smooth passage through to the semi-finals of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, an unexpected speed bump has made things much tougher than they were just a few days ago.
Based on both recent results and the huge gap between the two sides in the ICC rankings, Eoin Morgan and Co would have been pretty confident of seeing off a lowly Sri Lanka team that had only beaten Afghanistan.
And that confidence looked to be justified at the halfway stage given their opponents’ seemingly well below-par total of 232-9.
However, a combination of some superb Sri Lankan bowling and a number of loose shots saw England bowled out for just 212.
It’s a result that isn’t fatal, but it’s not exactly the ideal preparation for their remaining matches against Australia, India and New Zealand – the three sides England look to be competing with for the trophy.
They begin this crucial period of the tournament against Australia at Lord’s today.
The Aussies seem to be coming to the boil nicely and what’s perhaps most worrying for their rivals is that they don’t seem to have played that well, yet they’ve won five of their six matches so far, with a defeat to India the only blot on their record.
Since that defeat, they’ve won three on the bounce against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, with David Warner’s return to form a more than welcome bonus.
Like his country, Warner begun the tournament slowly, with his usual attacking flamboyance replaced by an uncharacteristically circumspect approach.
However, three innings and two swashbuckling hundreds later, he’s the tournament’s leading run-scorer.
He seems to have come back into form at just the right time and with opening partner Aaron Finch also near the top of the run-scoring charts, England’s bowlers will need to be at their best.
Even before Warner and Steve Smith’s reintroduction, this was a side in-form having recorded series wins over both India and Pakistan earlier in 2019.
Both were without that dynamic duo, so to have the ability to bring two players of such quality back into an already successful side really shows the ability the Australians have and you can guarantee they won’t be giving up their title without a serious fight.
England come into this knowing three wins guarantee them a final-four spot, although two wins would probably get the job done as well.
Their confidence will have certainly taken a knock after Friday’s defeat and although they’ve proved on a number of occasions their ability to bounce back from disappointment, they’ve yet to beat Australia, India or New Zealand in the World Cup since 1992 – a stat that must be in the back of their minds.
Having tipped Australia to win the tournament, I’m pretty happy with their current position and I’m leaning towards them again here.
As I mentioned, they seem to be peaking at the business end of the tournament and they come into this brimming with confidence having won their last three in good fashion.
Buying Australia at 46 on Sporting Index’s 100-50-0 Index looks the call, with a victory for the old enemy winning you 54 times your stake.
Buy Australia 100-50-0 Index 46 (Sporting Index)