And breathe. England have reached their first World Cup final since 1992, and they did it in emphatic style. Thursday’s crushing victory over Australia in the semi-final was stunning; there is simply no other way to describe it. Woakes and Archer ripped through their top order before Jason Roy set about dismantling Starc, Lyon & co. Edgbaston, so often the fortress at which these heroic stands are made, delivered a remarkable day once again, as the three lions booked their place at cricket’s biggest fixture.
Two weeks ago, the whole World Cup campaign was threatening to disappoint, as the prospect of missing out on the last four seemed a very real one. However, following the disappointment of back-to-back defeats, Captain Morgan’s men have come out firing on all cylinders. They’re back to the side we have all become accustomed to seeing over the past four years, and seem to be peaking at just the right time. If they perform like they did on Thursday, you would expect New Zealand to struggle with England's firepower at Lord's.
The low point of the Sri Lanka loss seems miles away, and the defeats can now be brushed off as a temporary and well-timed blip. Three comfortable wins in a row against India, New Zealand, and Australia constitutes a spectacular return to form, and now that run needs extending to four.
Regardless of the outcome on Sunday, few would disagree that this England side is leading the way when it comes to ODI cricket. The openers are destructive, the number three oozes class, the ice-cool skipper has the wrists of Mr. Fantastic, while they have one of the world’s best all-rounders at five and a abosulte freak of an at number six. Two of the quickest bowlers you’ll see join two more with years of experience to make up the ideal bowling attack alongside a talismanic leggy. No side, of any era, can genuinely claim to have a more well-rounded XI than that.
Having worked for four years to get to this very moment, it should also be acknowledged that England’s planning has worked. They began their journey against New Zealand back in 2015, when Jason Roy was just a guy who got a golden duck in his first ODI innings. Not that many dwelt on that for long; England made 408/9 that day thanks to 129 from Jos Buttler and 104 from Joe Root. Since then, the squad has been refined and the kit changed – the approach, the entertainment, and (largely) the results have stayed the same.
Want to know the best part? Jos Buttler is due a few…
England will not underestimate Sunday’s opponents. Yes, they ran out comfortable winners in the group stage last week, but New Zealand have plenty of players that can inflict damage. Trent Boult and Matt Henry have just wiped out India’s top order, after all, and Kane Williamson is undeniably one of the finest players in the world across all three formats.
Credit should also be given to the Blackcaps for the way they, like England, have responded to defeat. They entered the semi's in the worst possible form, having put in two pretty miserable performances, and yet still managed to blow away one of the tournament favourites. Both teams have earnt themselves the right to be at Lord’s on Sunday; they have taken games by the scruff of the neck and delivered when it counted.
It was announced shortly after the winning runs were hit on Thursday that Channel 4 would show the World Cup final. The last time England were shown live on free-to-air television, Michael Vaughan was lifting the Ashes proudly above his head after victory at the Oval in 2005. It’s fantastic news for cricket and the British public, and hopefully also represents a good omen for the players.
The game - nay, the culmination of four years' hard work from the players and coaching staff and decades of waiting from the fans - gets underway at 10:30am.
The Barmy Army are holding a World Cup Final party all day at The Geroge Inn, 77 Borough High Street, Southwark, SE1 ENH and it would be great to see as many of you there as possible. Barmy Army ale will be on tap, the game will be shown on indoor and outdoor screens, and there will be a DJ afterwards for (hopefully) a celebratory party.
Finally, we would also advise checking the official ICC Cricket World Cup resale website for any tickets that may become available. It might take a whole day of hitting 'refresh', but that's a small price to pay.
Spread the word, get down to Southwark if you can, and buckle up – cricket’s coming home.
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