Australia got a breather in the 18th over when Mitchell Starc dismissed Jonny Bairstow (34) in the second World Cup semi-final against England at Edgbaston on Thursday.
The defending champions were not out of the woods though as Jason Roy — who brought up another half-century of the tournament — continued to torment the Australian bowlers.
In 20 overs, England were 146 for one. Joe Root had replaced Bairstow.
Roy and Bairstow had fared much better than the entire Australian batting lineup as they cruised towards the 224-run target set by the defending champions.
Australian bowlers, who have been outstanding throughout the World Cup, seemed helpless before England openers.
The win forecaster, that was already tipped in England’s favour, went up to 99.61 per cent after an expensive over by Steve Smith in which Roy struck three sixes in a row.
Australia’s innings ended on a dismal note as the team was all out on 223 with one over remaining.
The defending champions had started miserably and lost their top three batsmen and managed to score merely 27 runs — their lowest score in an opening powerplay. They were reduced to 15 for three in seven overs after Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer swiftly ripped through their top order.
Skipper Aaron Finch was bowled out for a duck by Archer in the second over of play while Woakes picked up the wickets of David Warner (9) and Peter Handscomb (4).
The loss of Finch and Warner so early in the game was a blow to Australia, as the two have consistently built strong partnerships that have proved to be a major contributor in their team’s victories in the group matches of the World Cup.
Steve Smith (85) and Alex Carey (46) managed to bring some stability to the innings by forming a 100-plus run partnership as English bowlers tried to restrict the flow of runs. Together, they had added 103 runs to the scoreboard.
But Australia’s batting momentum was shaken for the second time in the day when Adil Rashid dismissed Carey in the 28th over. Rashid gave England another reason to celebrate two balls later after he dismissed Marcus Stoinis for a duck in the same over.
Archer struck for the second time when he dismissed Glen Maxwell (22) in the 35th over. On the other side of the pitch, Smith could only shake his head in disappointment as he saw his third partner depart in eight overs. The score predictor had dropped to 229 runs from 310 at the start of the game.
Rashid bagged his third wicket of the day when he removed Pat Cummins (6) who was caught by Joe Root at first slip in the 39th over.
Cummins was replaced by Mitchell Starc, who hung on along with Smith to lead Australia beyond 200 runs in bid to post a modest score. Together, they managed to post 43 runs on the scoreboard.
Jos Buttler struck a blow to Australia by throwing a direct hit that removed Smith — who had acted as an anchor for the Australian batting lineup — in the 48th over.
Mitchel Starc (29) was gone on the next delivery by Chris Woakes when he tried the ball hard but was caught by Buttler.
Nathan Lyon and Jason Behrendorff tried to hold their ground for the next two overs but a yorker by Mark Wood in the 49th over, that bowled out the latter batsman, brought an end to the Australian innings.
Rashid and Woakes stood out among the bowlers, bagging three wickets each, though the former proved to be more expensive as he gave away 54 runs in his 10-over spell. Archer picked 2-32 while Wood bagged one wicket.
Australia had won the toss and opted to bat first.
The winner of today’s match will head to the final at Lord’s to face New Zealand, who emerged victorious against India in the first semi-final on Wednesday.
England are unchanged, while Australia bring in Peter Handscomb for the injured Usman Khawaja. Handscomb will bat at number four, meaning Steve Smith has gone up the order to number 3.
There were scattered clouds on a sunny and warm morning in Birmingham.
4 years of planning
Four years of planning will be put on the line for England after their woeful first-round exit at the 2015 edition prompted a complete rethink of their approach to One-Day Internationals for a side that had long placed Test success above all other considerations.
Australian coach Trevor Bayliss was drafted in with the aim of guiding their bid for a first World Cup title.
The transformation has been impressive, with England climbing to number one in the ODI rankings under the astute captaincy of Eoin Morgan.
Their rise to the summit has been based on dynamic run-scoring, with in-form openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow leading the way.
Host broadcaster Sky has said it will allow the final to be shown on free-to-air television in Britain — but only if England are involved in the showpiece match.
It would be the first time since 2005 that a major England men’s home match had emerged from behind a UK television paywall, with cricket having a chance to reconnect with a ‘lost’ audience in its birthplace.
But Morgan urged England to avoid being overawed by the scale of the task confronting them in Birmingham.
“Sometimes I’m guilty of it, you can lose sight of the position you’re in and the fact you’re living your dream,” Morgan said on Wednesday.
Australia, however, have never lost any of their seven previous World Cup semi-finals — although they did tie with South Africa at Edgbaston 20 years ago before advancing into the final thanks to their superior net run-rate from the preceding ‘Super Six’ stage.
England had won 10 of their last 11 ODIs against Australia prior to the World Cup.
But that counted for nothing when Australia landed a psychological blow in the group stage, beating Ashes rivals England by 64 runs at Lord’s last month.
Australia left-arm quicks Jason Behrendorff and Mitchell Starc shared nine wickets between them in a match where Australia captain Aaron Finch made 100 after surviving a testing opening from England’s fast bowlers.
England: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (capt), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood
Australia: Aaron Finch (capt), David Warner, Steven Smith, Peter Handscomb, Marcus Stoinis, Glenn Maxwell, Alex Carey (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Jason Behrendorff