England’s sad group stage exit at the 2015 edition provoked a complete rethink of their approach to one-day internationals for a side that had long placed Test success above all other concerns.
Australian coach Trevor Bayliss was drafted in with the plan of guiding their bid for a first World Cup title.
The transformation has been inspiring, with England climbing to number one in the ODI rankings under the intelligent captaincy of Eoin Morgan.
Their rise to the summit has been based on energetic run-scoring, with in-form openers Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy leading the way. But the risks for hosts England are higher than simply the winning of a match that would see them into a final against New Zealand at Lord’s on Sunday.
Satellite subscription host broadcaster Sky has said it will allow the final to be shown on free-to-air television in Britain — but only if England is playing in the final match. It would be the first time since 2005 that a major England men’s home match had appeared from behind a UK television pay wall, with cricket having a possibility to reconnect with a ‘lost’ audience in its hometown.
However, Australia has never lost any of their seven previous World Cup semi-finals — although they did tie with South Africa at Edgbaston 20 years ago before progressing into the final on higher net run-rate.
Last month they landed an emotional blow in the group stage when they beat Ashes rivals England by 64 runs at Lord’s.
Australia’s left-arm quicks Mitchell Starc and Jason Behrendorff collectively took nine wickets in a match where Australia captain Aaron Finch made 100 after surviving a difficult opening from England’s fast bowlers.
However, Roy was missing with a ragged hamstring and since his return, England have succeeded with having crucial wins over New Zealand and India that took them into the semi-finals.