Defending champions Australia would be looking to assert their superiority over an inspired England side when they take them on in the Champions Trophy semi-final at the SuperSport Park on Friday.
The two sides will be facing each other for the eighth time within six weeks with Australia holding a psychological edge over England, having beaten them 6-1 in the seven match One-day series in their own backyard.
But the Englishmen have come back strongly from last month’s dismaying performance to post convincing victories over Sri Lanka and South Africa in the first two games of the Champions Trophy. The loss to New Zealand, however, pushed them to the second spot in Group B.
Australia, on the other hand, was far from being impressive in their 50-run win over a second string West Indian team in the opening match and were lucky to register a last-ball victory over Pakistan after their batting crumbled at the same venue Wednesday. The win perched them on the top of Group A.
Injuries have plagued both the sides. The Australia vice-captain Michael Clarke is already on his way home after a chronic back problem and will be replaced by David Hussey.
For England, it is the in-form seam bowler Stuart Broad who tore a muscle in his buttock. He will have a late fitness test ahead of the semi-final.
A late decision will also be taken on wicket-keeper Matt Prior, who missed the last two games with illness. He could be replaced by Steve Davies.
Both the sides are well versed with each other’s game and will be carefully sketching out their strategy.
“Conditions are very different here to what they were in England and they’ve been playing some good cricket of late. We have to work out what went wrong with our batting,” Australian skipper Ricky Ponting said.
“We know them very well, we’ve played a lot of cricket against them, we know what their strengths and weaknesses are.
“We were able to exploit those through the last few weeks over there, so it’s a matter of doing that again.”
England spinner Graham Swann said England will go into the clash fearless and will be looking to make amends for their embarrassment in the recent One-day series at home after winning the Ashes. They are looking for their first ever championship win in an International Cricket Council (ICC) tournament.
“We talked about playing a fearless brand of cricket but were as timid as pussycats (in One-day series),” Swann said. “We’re very unpredictable and I guess that’s what makes us exciting.
“But something has clicked here in South Africa. I’ve no idea what it is. To be honest, coming off six defeats, we were thinking we’d have three days out here then go home for a bit of a break before (returning for) the South Africa tour.
“But as soon as we arrived, everyone seemed lifted. We’ve beaten two of the best teams in Sri Lanka and South Africa, so why can’t we win the whole thing,” he said.
The teams (from):
England: Andrew Strauss (captain), Joe Denly, Owais Shah, Paul Collingwood, Eoin Morgan, Matt Prior (wicket-keeper), Ravi Bopara, Luke Wright, Stuart Broad, Graeme Swann, Ryan Sidebottom, James Anderson, Tim Bresnan, Graham Onions, Adil Rashid.
Australia: Ricky Ponting (captain), Shane Watson, Tim Paine (wicket-keeper), Mike Hussey, Callum Ferguson, Cameron White, James Hopes, Mitchell Johnson, Brett Lee, Nathan Hauritz, Peter Siddle, Adam Voges, Ben Hilfenhaus, Doug Bollinger, David Hussey.
Match Name: Champions Trophy, Semi-final
Teams: England vs Australia
Venue: SuperSport Park at Centurion
Time: 1800 IST
Channel: Star Cricket