By ZAID MOHAMMED
OPENING batsman Jason Roy bludgeoned Australia into submission today to steamroll England into the final of the 2019 ICC World Cricket Cup after his team’s emphatic eight-wicket victory at Edgbaston in Birmingham.
The home team will play New Zealand for the prestigious trophy on Sunday at Lord’s in London after the Black Caps, on Wednesday, stunned India by 18 runs in another low-scoring encounter at Old Trafford in Manchester.
Chasing 224 to win, England clinically achieved their target as Roy crashed nine boundaries and five maximums in making 85 off just 65 balls. He put on an opening partnership of 124 in 17.2 overs with Jonny Bairstow who made 34 with five fours.
Bairstow was deprived of a well-deserved century when he was given out caught behind the wicket, in controversial circumstances although the Decision Review System showed no contact.
At that stage, England did not have a review remaining so the decision stood.
Bairstow was the first England batsman to go, in the 18th over, but the die was already cast for their opponents, even when Roy followed 14 balls later.
Captain Eoin Morgan was there at the end making an undefeated 45 with eight boundaries and hitting the winning runs, while Joe Root was not out on 49 with five hits to the ropes.
Earlier, Australia won the toss and elected to take the first strike but was immediately on the ropes, struggling against the England seam attack and were restricted to 223 all out in 49 overs.
The Aussies got the worst possible start when their inform batsman and captain Aaron Finch was trapped leg before wicket by Jofra Archer with the first ball of the second over of the innings.
Things got progressively worse when tall-scoring fellow-opener David Warner fended at a rising delivery from Chris Woakes and gave an easy catch to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler to make it 10 for two in the third over.
The Aussies were plunged into further trouble when incoming batsman Peter Handscomb was comprehensively bowled by Woakes to make the score 14 for three.
But Steve Smith, the former team captain who was suspended from cricket for a year by the ICC for his involvement in a ball-tampering controversy last year, dug in his heels with Alex Carey to post 113 for the fourth wicket.
Carey made an invaluable 46 with four boundaries showing great maturity but he was soon followed by Marcus Stoinis back in the pavilion in the same over by England spinner Adil Rashid.
Smith continued his rescue act partnering with incoming batsman and fast bowler Glen Maxwell (22) as they added 39 for the sixth wicket before him and Pat Cummins departed within the space of nine runs.
Mitchel Starc strode into the wicket and with Smith set about repairing the damage done by Rashid three-for and the tandem posted 51 crucial runs to push the total to 217 for eight.
Smith, then 85 and in search of what would have been a brilliant century, was unfortunately run out by a stunning direct hit of the stumps at the non-striker’s end by wicket-keeper Buttler.
He slammed six fours, faced 119 balls in 201 minutes, and played one of the most important innings for his country which took the team from the precipice of disaster to a place where Australia can use their bowling firepower to make a defence their small total.
Like Rashid, “Man-of-the-Match” Woakes also grabbed three wickets, extracting bounce and swing, while Archer took two, continuing his impressive showing with the new ball.
Mark Wood got the last one to fall to bring the Australia innings to a close.