In the second semi-final game played today, England beat Australia. It does not really count as an upset since there is not a whole lot of difference in the skill sets and rankings of the two teams. But England had lost badly to Australia in their first round match and even lost to lowly Sri Lanka. Meanwhile Australia had won seven of their nine matches, most quite easily, losing only to the strong Indian team and to South Africa in their last game when they had already clinched a spot in the semi-final and the pressure was off. Australia was the in-form team and had also never lost a semi-final game in their seven previous appearances in the 11 tournaments held before the current one.
So Australia was favored to win this game but not overwhelmingly so. The real surprise was how easily England won.
Batting first, Australia scored a lowly 223 runs. But New Zealand managed to defend a similarly low score of 239 in their sensational semi-final win against India. Since Australia has a formidable bowling attack, it was by no means expected to be easy for England to reach that total. But they barely worked up a sweat and cruised to victory, knocking off the required runs in just 32 overs for the loss of only two wickets. Australia’s star bowler Mitchell Starc seemed to pose no terrors at all for the England batters and was punished heavily. Such are the vagaries of cricket.
So the final on Sunday will be between New Zealand and England, neither of whom have won the World Cup before. Previous winners have been West Indies (1975, 1979), India (1983, 2011), Pakistan (1992), Sri Lanka (1996), and Australia (1987, 1999, 2003, 2007, 2015).
England has been the losing finalist three times in 1979, 1987, and1992, while New Zealand was the losing finalist in 2015.
It is good for the game when the strength is spread around and that this final is now going to produce a new winner whatever the outcome is to be celebrated.