Defending champions England knocked out as Australia march towards semi-finals

Australia 286 (Labuschagne 71, Green 47, Woakes 4-54) beat England 253 (Stokes 64, Malan 50, Zampa 3-21) by 33 runs

It’s over. And that’s not simply the worst World Cup defence in the history of international sport.

Everything that, for eight heady years, had been taken for granted about England’s white-ball batting has vanished without trace, as if some Hollywood baddy had pinched a sports almanack from the future and set the dials on the team’s Delorean for the 2015 World Cup. We’ve re-entered an epoch of endless, desperate failure – the miracle of 2019 lost forever to some branch-line of the space-time continuum.

England’s sixth defeat – by 33 runs in Ahmedabad – in seven games was in turn Australia’s fifth win in five, with which they have marched clear of a hard-chasing pack to tighten their grip on a semi-final berth. It was marginally less supine than some of England’s losses – thanks to another spirited bowling display led by Adil Rashid and Chris Woakes, who also rallied gamely at the death with the bat, and another compelling but all-too-brief sighting of Ben Stokes in #HeroMode.
But with Adam Zampa surging to the top of the tournament wicket-charts with an outstanding haul of 3 for 21 in ten overs, Australia’s apparently middling target of 287 was never realistically challenged – especially after another abject powerplay in which Joe Root, one of England’s indisputable greats across formats, produced an innings of such awfulness it truly deserves to be his last in coloured clothing.
England versus Australia always tends to exist outside of context, but not on this occasion. Australia’s victory has brought closure to everything – England’s barely-less-than-non-existent hopes of a top-four finish; their claim on the so-called #MoralAshes, especially after Marnus Labuschagne‘s Test-tempo 71 proved to be the decisive score of the match; and maybe even their hopes of playing in the 2025 Champions Trophy, if other results go against them in the coming days.
The only thing that must limp on, ironically, is England’s World Cup campaign itself. Netherlands are up next for an unlikely shot at European Championship glory, before Pakistan – fuelled by qudrat ka nizam after their astonishing win in Bengaluru – rock up in Kolkata with a chance to make their 1992 comeback seem like a standard day in the life.

In the meantime, Australia march on towards the top-four spot that England assumed would be theirs by right.

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