“They are quite predictable, they don't like to change a lot, and from our aspect we know that and we can play on (it).” – Steve Smith can at least be proud that he got 75 percent of the prediction right.
Unfortunately for the Australian captain, things rather fell down for his side when it came to fulfilling the last part of his prophecy.
On a largely cloudy day at Edgbaston, a record ODI crowd were indeed treated to a predictable performance from England, as Australia were dispatched by 40 runs on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method and sent back home with their tails between their legs, failing to register a single win in the tournament.
Very briefly, when David Warner and Aaron Finch began teeing off at the start of their innings, it seemed like it might be Australia’s day, ultimately though when the second batch of rain swept into the ground to wash out the rest of play, it felt like a kindness to England’s opposition.
If, in a parallel universe, instead of his favoured wry remark or two, Eoin Morgan was as partial to the pre-match jibe as his Australian counterpart, he might well have also labelled his opposition predictable although in this case it was a weakness rather than a strength.
Just as Moises Henriques is almost certainly the finest ever cricketer to be born in Portugal, there is as little doubt that he is batting several places too high in Australia’s order, whose middle order might be rather vulnerable when faced with a competent bowling attack.
Predictably, so it proved. Although a large amount of the credit for that should go to England, who were superb with the ball. In Mark Wood, England have a real match-winning bowler and after some excellent, if largely unrewarded, spells in recent ODIs for England, here he got the scalps his bowling deserved, finishing with 4 for 33 from his ten overs, exactly two thirds of which were dot balls. This was phenomenal considering how much ODI cricket has become a batsman’s game.
Adil Rashid was also excellent. But he was unfortunate to not pick up more top-order wickets. Rashid was the beneficiary of more than a bit of luck as he helped to skittle a large part of Australia’s lower-order with a very handy 4/41 — the decision to leave him out of the side for England’s first game in this tournament looks increasingly like some sort of bizarre private joke only understood by the team’s selection committee.
At the halfway stage, everything looked to be going swimmingly for England. Australia were seemingly well below par with the bat and surely heading for an early tournament exit. However, less than six overs into England’s innings things didn’t look quite so bright; their first three batsmen back in the shed with only 35 runs on the board, including another failure for the under-fire Jason Roy.
If Smith saw a glimmer of hope for his side at this point then he would have done better to remember his pre-match prediction. After an entirely predictable, but thankfully brief, rain delay, Morgan and Ben Stokes set about doing what has become routine for England in the last two years: brutally batting their opposition out of the game.
When the two teams went off the field, England were 49 runs behind the DLS par score, just 11 overs later their pair of swashbuckling left-handers had wrestled them four runs ahead, and from that point on they never looked back.
Smith desperately rotated through his various bowling options but there was little he could do to stop the onslaught. In the end, only a running mix-up could separate the pair as a direct hit from Adam Zampa removed Morgan on 87.
Ultimately though it mattered little to England as Jos Buttler picked up where his captain had left off, batting on with Stokes until the all-rounder slammed Zampa through the covers for four to bring up his third ODI hundred — a ball later the heavens opened and put Australia out of their misery.
The result meant that Bangladesh entered the semi-finals of the Champions Trophy, an outcome that even the great seer of Sydney, Steve Smith, couldn’t have foreseen but which nonetheless leaves him with about as much egg on his face as a particularly clumsy drunk in a henhouse.