England Into Cricket World Cup Final After Beating Australia By 8 Wickets
England have reached the final of the ICC Cricket World Cup after beating Australia at Edgbaston.
The home side chased down a total of 224 to wrap up an eight-wicket victory in front of a raucous Birmingham crowd.
A stellar bowling performance from the hosts, backed up by a confident batting display, saw the hosts ease into the final of the tournament, which will be against New Zealand on Sunday at Lord's.
Australia won the toss and elected to bat first but were quickly made to pay after three quick wickets put England firmly in control.
First, Aussie captain Aaron Finch fell to Jofra Archer for a duck, then key batsman David Warner was also out cheaply off the bowling of Chris Woakes.
Peter Handscomb, making his first appearance in the tournament after being drafted in, saw an inside edge send another Woakes delivery clattering into his stumps.
Australia were rattled at 14-3 but a valiant stand between Alex Carey and skipper Steve Smith steadied the ship slightly.
During a stand that saw the Australians add 103 runs to their total, Carey was struck by an Archer bouncer that removed his helmet and bloodied his face, though he was eventually able to keep wicket during England's innings.
Carey was eventually out for 46 after attempting to heave spinner Adil Rashid to the boundary. Rashid then promptly removed Marcus Stoinis in the same over for no score.
As the Aussie batsmen scrambled to set a total, England wicket-keeper Jos Buttler threw down Smith's stumps between his legs for a remarkable run out, the skipper departing with a team high score of 85.
Despite creditable efforts from Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Starc, once Jason Berhendorff was clean bowled by a Mark Wood Yorker, England were left needing 224 to book their spot in Sunday's showpiece.
If Australia started nervously, England learned from their opponents' mistakes.
The in-form pair of Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy put on 50 for no loss of wicket within 10 overs and looked remarkably comfortable against a formidable Australian bowling unit, picking their shots well and showing flashes of the explosive power both possess.
It was a masterclass from the England openers. Roy brought up his 50 with a sumptuous drive to the boundary rope.
Then the shackles came off. England's 100 was brought up with a straight six, before the next two deliveries also found their way to the stand via the bat of Jason Roy.
The Aussies were then given a small amount of encouragement when Starc trapped Bairstow lbw.
Bairstow burned England's review wastefully, but at 124-1 England were still very much in pole position.
Joe Root came in at three and decided to get in on the fun. He slapped 12 runs from his first four balls to reassert the hosts' dominance.
But, before he could reach his ton, Roy was adjudged to have nicked behind wicket-keeper Carey. With no review remaining, he was forced to walk off on 85.
Subsequent replays and the UltraEdge system showed no contact between Roy and the ball.
With captain Eoin Morgan and Root in the middle, the approach from England became slightly more cautious, but no less effective.
The pair didn't exhibit the explosive batting of Roy and Bairstow, but didn't hang around either.
Both men managed to get themselves in and left England needing less than 30 runs with 22 overs left.
From start to finish, England made their run chase look like a procession. The winning runs were struck in the 33rd over as Morgan found the ropes again.
England had won, and they'd made it look easy. Edgbaston erupted.
After shock losses against Pakistan and then Sri Lanka, as well as a loss against today's opponents in the league stage, England finally started to look like the tournament favourites again with victories against India and New Zealand.
Few would bet against them this weekend, either.
Though New Zealand will represent a different and dogged challenge - especially after their terrific victory against India at Old Trafford - England will go to the final with momentum, form, and the hopes of winning a first ever 50-over World Cup.
Featured Image Credit: PA