Smith defies England as Australia struggle in World Cup semi-final


LONDON: Steve Smith held firm with an unbeaten fifty as England reduced Australia to 166 for seven in their World Cup semi-final at Edgbaston on Thursday.

England, bidding to reach their first final since 1992, made a sensational start against the reigning champions, taking three early wickets to leave Aaron Finch’s side in deep trouble.

Prolific opening pair David Warner and Finch, as well as Peter Handscomb, were all back in the pavilion by the seventh over.

Smith and Alex Carey (46) steadied the innings with a fourth-wicket stand of 103 before leg-spinner Adil Rashid struck twice in five balls to leave Australia 118-5.

The dangerous Glenn Maxwell then holed out to England captain Eoin Morgan off the bowling of Jofra Archer for 22 and Pat Cummins was caught by Joe Root to give Rashid another victim.

The winners of the match in Birmingham will face New Zealand, who shocked mighty India at Old Trafford, in Sunday’s final at Lord’s.

England have never won the World Cup but have risen to the top of the ODI standings since an embarrassing first-round exit at the 2015 edition.

Earlier, Barbados-born Archer struck with his first ball, trapping Australia captain Finch lbw for a duck.

Finch, who made exactly 100 in Australia’ 64-run group win over England at Lord’s, then cost his side their lone review of the innings when he unsuccessfully challenged Sri Lankan umpire Kumar Dharmasena’s decision.

Woakes, on his Warwickshire home ground, had Warner well caught by Jonny Bairstow at first slip for nine.

Warner, who walked out to boos because of his role in a ball-tampering scandal in South Africa last year, returned to even louder jeers.

Smith, who was also given a 12-month ban for his part in the incident, was given a similar greeting when he made his way to the wicket.

Warner’s exit brought in Handscomb, only recently called into the squad after Usman Khawaja’s tournament-ending hamstring injury, but he was bowled by Woakes for just four.

Australia wicketkeeper Carey had his helmet knocked off by an Archer bouncer and required several minutes of on-field treatment but with his head swathed in a bandage, Carey resumed his innings.

Left-hander Carey then cover-drove both Woakes and Liam Plunkett — yet to be on the losing side this World Cup.

But insight of a fifty he hoisted Rashid straight to substitute fielder James Vince at deep midwicket.

Four balls later, Australia were 118-5 when all-rounder Marcus Stoinis was lbw for a duck to Rashid’s googly.

Australia are bidding for a sixth World Cup title, having won four of the past five editions.