Firstpost Spodcast Episode 246: England beat Australia in Cricket World Cup semi-final, Serena Williams-Simona Halep showdown in Wimbledon title clash and more

Welcome to Spodcast, the sports update on Firstpost.

1. Cricket World Cup news to start the podcast, and England trounced rivals Australia convincingly on Thursday to qualify for the finals.

Batting first, Australia had an underwhelming time at the crease as England reduced then to 14/3 by the 7th over. David Warner was dismissed for nine runs while Aaron Finch got a first ball duck in the semi-final.

Newly minted number four Peter Handscomb was also back in the hut after facing just 12 balls as the defending champions struggled to get going. It fell to Steve Smith and Alex Carey to rescue the innings, as they added 103 runs for the fourth wicket. Carey was dismissed by Adil Rashid on 46 as Australia scratched their way to 117 by the 28th over.

Glenn Maxwell made a steady 22 from 23 balls while Smith anchored the innings. Mitchell Starc chipped with a crucial 29 runs from 36 balls even as the rest of the tail capitulated. Smith top scored with 85 from 119 balls. Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid took three wickets each as England dismissed Australia for just 223 in 49 overs.

England’s chase got off to a terrific start as Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow brought up the hundred in the 16th over. Roy was the main aggressor, belting five sixes and nine fours as a hapless Australia looked out of sorts.

Bairstow fell after making 34 but Joe Root dropped anchor and ensured one end was safe as Roy went about pulverizing the Aussies. He was dismissed on 85 from 65 balls due to an unfortunate umpiring decision.

He was caught behind off the bowling of Pat Cummins but replays showed he hadn’t nicked the ball. But England had lost their review earlier on, and Roy walked off in anger after an aggressive argument with the umpires.

England were at 147 in the 20th over and the chase well under control. England skipper Eoin Morgan came out and hit 8 fours as the hosts wrapped up the match in just the 33rd over, winning by eight wickets.

The final will be played on Sunday by two teams who have never won the World Cup. England were the losing finalists in 1979, 1987 and 1992. They face New Zealand, who were runners-up to Australia four years ago.

2) In WImbledon news, Simona Halep is the last woman standing between Serena Williams and her ambition of equalling Margaret Court's Grand Slam title record after both recorded easy victories in their semi-finals on Thursday.

Seven-time champion Williams made short work of plucky unseeded Czech Barbora Strycova, whose experience of her first ever Grand Slams singles semi-final in her 53rd campaign lasted just under an hour as she lost 6-1, 6-2.

Williams produced a dominant performance, which has not always been the case during the Championships, and she said she would not be taking seventh-seeded Halep lightly. Williams said, “She's a tough opponent. We always have great matches. I look forward to it.”

Former world number one Simona Halep's match against Ukrainian Elina Svitolina lasted a bit longer but the 27-year-old emerged a 6-1, 6-3 victor to become the first Romanian woman to reach the Wimbledon final. Halep, who was French Open champion in 2018, will be play in her fifth Grand Slam final on Saturday. Her last semi-final at Wimbledon was back in 2014.

She said, “It's an amazing feeling but I am also excited and nervous. It is one of the best moments of my life. The match was not easy, the games were long and went deep. I fought hard to win this match and I was strong mentally and physically and had the right tactics...I have more experience; I don't give up anymore. I plan to be the best version of myself and fight to the end."

3) In news from the Tour de France event, defending champion Geraint Thomas defied his doubters on Thursday as Belgian Dylan Teuns won stage six and his breakaway partner Giulio Ciccone snatched the yellow jersey by just a few seconds on an iconic mountain stage.

Teuns won the ultra-tough mountain stage to Planche des Belles Filles when he and Ciccone crossed the summit finish line as the sole survivors of a mass breakaway.

He said, “It was so steep, but I love these kind of finishes. It was a good big breakaway group. That helped keep us out ahead, five of us were Belgians too...When it came down to the two of us, we stayed calm, we talked about it.”

Frenchman Julian Alaphilippe put in a heroic defence of his lead, but missed out due to the bonus seconds over the final two summits saw the young Italian edge ahead of him.

Overall, that stage ended up as a battle not only for the stage and the lead but also for psychological control of the race. This was the 2019 Tour's first foray into the mountains, a stage that the defending champion, Welshman Geraint Thomas, had described as 'the big day'.

Just behind the breakaway pair, Thomas gave food for thought to those who had called him a one-hit wonder after his 2018 win. Thomas raised eyebrows when he lost a few seconds on a climb at Epernay earlier in the week and had tipped Ineos team-mate Egan Bernal.

He said on Thursday, “I don't listen to tips. I felt pretty good. I thought it would be more of a solid day. I was feeling good but I was unsure. I thought the steep climbs weren't my cup of tea.”

He waited until first Mikel Landa, then Thibaut Pinot and, finally, the overnight leader Alaphilippe himself had attacked before showing his form was back after a nasty fall in the Tour de Suisse in June. He explained, “It's one of those climbs where you really have to be patient.”

4) Tournament chiefs for the 2019 Cricket World Cup claimed they were working with authorities to establish a no-fly zone over Lord's for the final after political banners were flown in Birmingham during Thursday's semi-final between England and Australia.

The signs read "World must speak up for Balochistan" and "Help end disappearances in Pakistan". Thursday’s incident was the latest in a series of incidents earlier in the tournament, with the International Cricket Council distancing itself from the protests.

The cricketing body said in a statement, “We do not condone any sort of political messages at the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup. We have worked with local police forces around the country throughout the tournament to prevent the World Cup being used as a platform for political protests. So, we are incredibly disappointed these flights continue to take place. We are working very closely with the relevant agencies to make sure there is an air exclusion zone in place for manned and unmanned flights during the final at Lord's.”

The sky above Old Trafford was declared a "no-fly zone" for the first semi-final between India and New Zealand. Police made two arrests at the first semi-final on Tuesday but both men were released without charge.

Updated Date: Jul 12, 2019 13:35:46 IST