6 Royals got the privilege of representing their countries in the ICC Cricket World Cup, 2019. They all had memorable one or more memorable performances in what has been over a month-long tournament so far. The World Cup has moved into the business end. After the completion of the group stage, all but one of the six Rajasthan Royals players has made it to the semis. While Ish Sodhi couldn’t make it to New Zealand’s playing XI, but the other four are pretty much in line to face each other in the second semi-final between England and Australia, in what could be a Royal battle.
In the last couple of months or so, England and Australia have met twice. The first time was during the World Cup warm-up game and the second time during the group stage of the tournament itself.
Steve Smith set the tone and stole the show in the first of the two battles between these sides. He scored a rollicking 116 off 102 balls that comprised of 8 fours and 3 sixes. Smith was in prodigious form after his return in Australian colours and he took it a notch higher in this game with the century. Australia went on to score 297 runs. England got off to a rather slow start as the Aussie quicks neutralised the threats of Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow at the top. Ben Stokes struggled for timing and could amass a laborious 20 runs off 32 balls.
It was Jos Buttler who came to the party with a quick-fire half-century when it looked like England were losing the plot. Jos got to his fifty off 31 balls but got out soon after, sending England’s chase in despair. Australia defended their total rather easily in the end, winning the warm-up fixture by 12 runs.
Then came the big game – a World Cup encounter! England were fresh off a shocking defeat to Sri Lanka, while Australia were on a roll and were looking at qualification into the semis. England had won the toss and put Australia in to bat. The Aussies got off to a fine start and their skipper scored a gutsy century. Steve Smith got off to a sound a start, but couldn’t take full toll after settling in. He got caught by Archer on 38, but the Aussies had a decent foundation. They managed to score 285/7, pretty similar to the total they put up during the warm-up game.
With Roy Injured, England didn’t have the men they would’ve wanted at the top. The Aussie quicks took advantage and skittled through England’s top and upper middle-order. In no time, England were reeling at 53/4. That brought Stokes and Buttler together in the centre, and England’s hopes were pinned on the Royal duo.
Stokes and Buttler put the English ship through a rigorous re-building phase. The duo rotated strike from time to time and put up 71 runs between them. The partnership was broken by some Usman Khawaja brilliance in the outfield. He ran towards a ball that came right out of the screws of a Buttler shovel and stretched out to pluck the ball out of thin air. Buttler couldn’t believe what he had seen but had to walk off.
Stokes waged a lone battle from there one, scoring his third fifty-plus score of the World Cup. He found valuable company in Chris Woakes, and took on the Aussie quicks from time to time to set the foundation for a counter-attack. He was on 89 when he received an unplayable Yorker from Mithcell Starc. Stokes reaction screamed disappointment and disbelief as he dropped his bat on the pitch after listening to the sound of timber.
Australia beat England quite convincingly, bowling them out for 221. After that loss, England were under pressure to win their remaining games to ensure qualification for the semis. They got their opening combination back in Roy and Bairstow and beat England and New Zealand to make it to the semis.
Once again this summer, the two teams meet and so do our Royals. Smith will go face-to-face with the trio of Buttler, Stokes and Archer. While Stokes has been in prime batting form, England will hope that Buttler and Archer get back to the form they showed at the start of the tournament. Australia are known for their affinity of World Cup finals and titles, while England, don’t have the best reputation in World Cups. Battle Royale will ensue in coloured clothing one final time before these Royals don whites for the Ashes. If England vs Australia, the semi-final lives up to its expectations, we are in for a cracker.