In Depth

Cricket World Cup is England’s to lose, says Australia star Nathan Lyon

Off-spinner ramps up the mind games ahead of Thursday’s semi-final at Edgbaston

Australia vs. England

  • What: ICC Cricket World Cup semi-final 
  • When: Thursday 11 July 
  • Where: Edgbaston, Birmingham 
  • Start time: 10.30am BST 
  • TV channel: live on Sky Sports
Roar of the Lyon

England and Australia meet in the World Cup semi-final on Thursday at Edgbaston, and already the Aussies are trying to pile the psychological pressure on the hosts. 

“It’s their World Cup to lose,” said Australia off-spinner Nathan Lyon, when asked about the contest.

“They’re full of world-class players and they’ve been the No.1 team for a couple of years now. They should be going into this World Cup as favourites, it’s all on them.”

England’s status as tournament favourites has suffered during the group stage with three losses - including one to Australia - but impressive victories against India and New Zealand last week suggested that the hosts have got over their slump.

Australia, on the other hand, were well beaten by South Africa at Old Trafford on Saturday, a defeat that meant they finished second in the group stage (behind India, who beat Sri Lanka in their final pool match) and so face third place England. 

In the other semi-final India will take on fourth-placed New Zealand at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

Starc facts

If England are to beat Australia - who have never lost a World Cup semi-final - they’ll have to find a way to see off Mitchell Starc. 

Against South Africa, the Aussie paceman equalled compatriot Glenn McGrath’s record [of 2007] of most wickets taken at a single World Cup, and should he pick up a 27th against England he will establish a new landmark.

Worryingly, however, for Australia, the left-arm fast bowler suffered a slight twinge to his right ankle when he stumbled on the outfield on Saturday, but Starc is optimistic he will be fit for Edgbaston. 

“I had a bit of ice on it but it’s pretty good,” he said. “I’m feeling pretty confident with it all and have been throughout the tournament so far.”

Starc took 4-43 when Australia thrashed England in the group stage last month, and although opener Jason Roy was absent through injury for that game, Starc said the game-plan should remain the same. 

“The blueprint the last time we played England was to take early wickets,” he said. “They’ll get Jason Roy back for the fixture, so we’re going to have a few days now to discuss if we need to change anything but I think the way we played England last time was a great blueprint moving forward.”

Bullish Bayliss

Perhaps the most crucial moment in Thursday’s game will be the toss. Should England win it they are likely to bat first because in the three group matches that they lost they batted second. 

Yet despite their difficulties in chasing targets, England coach Trevor Bayliss insists that the team doesn’t crack under pressure. 

“Over the past four years we have won 14 of the last 17 times we have batted second,” he told the BBC. “So batting second doesn’t scare our guys and the wickets are a little better now than they were earlier in the tournament. 

“We are full of confidence and happy to be in the semi-finals.”

Bayliss also said that the back-to-back group defeats against Sri Lanka and Australia had been wake-up calls, and that ever since England have played with their swagger of old. 

He added: “We came in off a bad loss to Sri Lanka in the game before where we got completely away from our style of play I guess and I think there was still a bit of a hangover in that next match. 

“After that the boys made a commitment to going out - win, lose or draw - to play to their strengths and we did that in the next two games and put in a good performance.”

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