It’s not the Ashes (it’s a whole lot more serious than that). Maybe?

7.45 am. You – we, I – check the weather. For Edgbaston. Even though we’re not actually going (unfortunately), just because you have to, because it’s Oz… and a semi.

Met Office inconclusive; because Ingerland, because 20/30/40% chance of showers at various times.

Expectations? Mixed, in a stomach-churntastic kindofaway, again partly because this is Oz and that is especially spicy but also because us England and Wales fans know that our lot really have been outstanding for a period of time. And maybe we hold onto to those delusions about brilliance deserving reward, laughable though that is.

*Walks dog*. Begins to dwell on the Real Life Things which may inconvenience the ideal, seamless scorch-to-glory for Our Eoin and co – or rather my viewing of said phenomenon. Walk back, in truth, more than a tad concerned that I may MISS THE BLOO-DEE DENOUEMENT on account of the Cricket-in-the-Castles event I now have to attend, later! Cue additional stomach-churn…

Let’s start with a boldish one: I reckon most neutrals would have England down as a marginally better side. Better quality – ‘deeper’. However I also think it likely that most neutrals might have Australia as favourites because a) they just find a bladdy waay, mate b) Starc/Warner/maybe Finch, maybe Smith. They have worldies who seem like they just won’t fail; like they just won’t fail against England; today. 

Could be that Starc isn’t even Australia’s best bowler but he may be the one to grab hold of this thing, irresistibly. You could see him ripping out England’s Finest, especially if the conditions favour early swing – maybe if they don’t.

Starc is fearsome. I don’t personally buy his occasional slightly tawdry tough-man thing but he is fearsome and it feels like he loves the limelight, relishes and grows into the killer moment; owns it.

(Incidentally, this morning my Australian Cricket Family(!) email me some ‘semi-final prep’ which includes an interview with Starc, on his ‘Toughest Opponents’. He names AB, Steve Smith and Ricky Ponting and Virat Kohli. No brits, two Aussies. Co-incidence?)

*OK, porridge. And some down-time. In danger of peaking too early, here…*

TMS. Bayliss’s blandishments. Dull: Farbrace joking afterwards about his ‘calm’. All figures but does his extraordinary non-animation work? 

Generally, you’d have to say the white-ball culture and results are – to use that cruelly over-used word – ‘positive’. Credit the man, too, for removing any Bayliss ego from the whole coaching process: that takes some doing and it’s healthy. Whatever the broader achievements, Bayliss will know that it’s the next few days that will inevitably define him. So no pressure.

Cricket. Aus win the toss and choose to bat first. Obviously this means England will be working pret-ty heavily against the grain of the tournament.

Anthems. Awful – both. Can we not be proud of our families, friends, communities, countries without all that? Or am I just wondering because those two anthems are so duff?

Swift thought intrudes. What a stage for Joffre Archer, what an opportunity for him!

For all of them, of course: Woakes, first up. Warner drives him for four. Woakes – on his home ground, remember – settles, thereafter. Nothing else, for Warner, in the over: nothing much happening in the air, mind.

Archer bowls full and straight at Finch. HUGE LB SHOUT!! OUT!! G.D. for Finch.

This brings in Smith. Archer peppers him then draws an inside edge. Fabulous tension around; Smith and Warner in, together, with England (well, most of Edgbaston) roaring. Great, great sport. 6 for 1 at the end of the over.

Woakes bowling those disciplined lines but Warner clouts him defiantly for four. Woakes’s response is a pearler. Quicker, bouncier – Warner can only fend to slip! 10 for 2.

Huge appeal against Handscomb, first ball. Erasmus says not out… and the review stays with that umpire’s call. Wow. Such is the rawness of the excitement, half the crowd think there’s a dropped catch at point next up; in fact Handscomb has drilled the ball into the turf. Breathless, intimidating stuff and a huge, intimidating start, from England.

Archer is loving it. He is both hostile and beautifully calm – and quick. Just the one run from his second over.

Woakes in again and appealing again. Nothing given and they opt not to review;correctly, as there was an inside edge. These are tough times for the two batsmen. Movement off the pitch, some bounce and a whole lot of braying brits.

Early days – maybe too early to be thinking about how Starc and co might be on this pitch – but England could hardly have wished for anything better from a) their start b) the bowling. Both Woakes and Archer have absolutely risen to this. Handscomb absolutely guessing against Archer. 14 for 2 after 6.

He may be guessing against Archer but now he is comprehensively bowled, by Woakes. Beauty, alright but the fella looked scrambled. (Personal view but I’ve never rated him; looks really unconvincing so-o often). Aus 3 down for bugger all. Carey is in, already. Carey. Moments later and Smith is 2, off 19 balls.

Archer bounces Carey. Rather scarily, his helmet is buffeted off in the collision and he catches it. Funeee-but-scareee. The guy needs a little attention: checking the replays, he does incredibly well to catch that helmet; which may have been rolling wicketward.

Resuming, Woakes, in the ninth, is teasing Carey, slanting across and leaving him. Eventually, the batsman *actually hits one*, driving through the covers for four. But there is substantial lateral movement, now, for England’s opening bowler. How long will Morgan keep him at it?

Archer is in again for the tenth. Double-change, after this, or persist and try to crack this innings wide, wide open? Boldly, after another testing over from Archer, Morgan opts to stay with Woakes. The relative thin-ness of that Australian batting order clearly in his mind. 28 for 3 after 11.

Stokes, however, will follow at ‘Archer’s End’. Big Moment, you feel, in the game and for Ben Stokes the international bowler. He is also finding some bounce. Good over – just the one from it.

Now Wood, from the Birmingham End. He gets a ludicrous amount of swing, first up – wide. Going across Carey, with width, he beats him. Then a further wide, marginally down leg. Then one on leg stump, clipped fine, drawing an incredible stop at the boundary, by Woakes, followed by a fabulous parry by Stokes, at backward point. Proper contests all-round, here. Weird, mixed over from Wood, mind. Three wides, coupla pearlers.

Just that sense that the game is quietening, as Smith and Carey find a little comfort. (Although the latter may well be in some discomfort, following that blow to the head. He has strapping supporting that jaw, now: brave fella).

Morgan is a philosophical geezer but he will want to drive the advantage forward rather than just contain, you suspect. Imagine him silently cursing as Stokes and Wood make no further inroads. 47 for 3 after 15 and here comes Plunkett.

Smith drives him straight for four. Without being remotely dominant, it does seem like the Aussie Genius is bedding in. Wood returns and Smith slashes him to the boundary. Momentum change – a gentle one, admittedly but the visitors are re-building. Smith is ‘picking off’ Plunkett, rather. 66 for 3 after 18.

Rain is possible today but hard to predict. There is a reserve day – tomorrow – but let’s hope that DLS/weather issues just aren’t a factor. The Aus runrate is inevitably currently lowish (below 4) due to that spectacularly challenging start but who knows how Roy, Root and Bairstow may go?

Rashid is in… and Carey seems onto him, playing with growing confidence, now.

Plunkett follows… and now we are into a containment phase. Good over. Rashid will need to back that up. Minor errors in the field don’t help that suspicion that England are struggling to maintain their intensity and focus. Morgan might want a word. 87 for 3 after 22. More Plunkett.

On TMS, the excellent Farbrace noting that Carey has looked the pick of the Australian batsmen. Agree – and the bloke may have a broken jaw (which he may have to ‘keep with). Top effort.

Aus reach their 100 with no significant dramas, in the 25th over. So what might they post? 260? Weird how conditions seem so benign, suddenly. For all the flak about #CWC19 pitches it seems we are likely to get another fascinating test of skills, here. Hope so.

Rashid is getting a little turn but Carey again picks his googly and sweeps hard for four. If Smith and Carey’s concentration and patience can last, you wouldn’t rule out a genuinely BIG partnership. Their 100 hundred partnership comes up.

*Real World Interlude* . Walk the beloved pooch. Come back.

Rashid, finding his flow, his arc, his confidence, by the looks, has taken two wickets. Carey gone. Stoinis gone. 130 for 5 after 30. And Archer is back, as England look to mop this up.

Stoinis was lbw and Carey (maybe predictably?) was caught in the deep, by Vince, the sub fielder. So are we looking at Aus around 260… or all out nearer 200? Game poised.

Maxwell strikes Rashid straightish for six. Great question, though from Nasser on Sky comms. “Can he play the innings of the day, as opposed to just the shot of the day?”

150 up. Rashid still whirling away, asking those proverbial questions pointedly enough but when short clubbed away by Maxwell.

Archer draws a streaky edge from Smith… and smiles, broadly. He goes to the bouncer – too short. Huge moment as Maxwell mistimes him to cover; the ball may have stuck somewhat in the pitch, lobbing gently to a grateful Morgan. Six down. Cummins in. 157 on the board.

What a privilege, really for England to be able to field a Rashid/Archer combo. How lucky they are. As we enter the last 15 overs, neither are in completely unplayable mode… but both are throwing down some beauties and the range of questions being asked is extraordinary.

Archer has Cummins – who is no mug – befuddled. Slower balls/knuckle balls. Tough to read.

Rashid, meanwhile is into his last over. He ‘gets’ Smith with a ground-catch. Then he has Cummins (caught behind, brilliantly, by Root), before bewildering the incoming Starc for no reward.  Finishes with 3 for 54, does Rashid: got better as he went on, playing a crucial part in getting England to a situation where 200 all out is on. As did Archer, who finishes with 2 for 32. Chapeau.

Wood will bowl the 40th. He’s cranking it up and mixing it up: some at 90mph. Four from the over 175 for 7. Aus would settle for 230 or 40 now, alright. Then Plunkett: tidy. Just the one single.

Australia – and we don’t say this too often – look like they daren’t be aggressive. It’s all about nurdles and nudges, Smith and Starc intent on persisting and racing those singles. There may be no ‘charge’ because it would be sinful in the extreme not to use almost (if not every) available ball. Score predictor is saying 222 but they will be wanting 240.

186 for 7 after 43 and Wood continues, around the wicket to Starc. Second ball driven sweetly past mid-off’s left hand – a rare four. Wood responds with a great, quick bouncer. Infuriatingly, he follows that with another legside wide – typical of his day, which has been disappointing.

Plunkett has been rather similar. He concedes a six and a wide (for height) in the 45th. Sky comms: it seems questionable that Woakes hasn’t been in a little earlier. (He has four overs remaining). 14 from Plunkett’s over, relatively risk-free runs, too.

A touch belatedly then, Woakes, with Aus at 206 for 7. Smith plays the Ugliest Shot Ever across into leg, for one. Starc, now, is trying to hit. Misses, pretty much.

Appeal against Smith, last ball of the over. Reviewed. Highish. Stays with umpire’s call – not out.

Wood again. Good ball at Smith, inside-edged onto pad. Close. Some good work from Starc, in truth, and the partnership reaches 50 runs. And they have accelerated somewhat.

Wow. Stunning bit of work as Buttler collects then throws down the wicket at the bowler’s end, towards which Smith is scampering. He’s out.

Double-wow as Woakes, again finding that killer length, draws an edge from Starc. Buttler takes a regulation catch. Suddenly we have Behrendorff and Lyons facing and Aus are nine down.

And finally, some joy from Wood. He castles Behrendorff with a beauty of a yorker. Classic, uplifting finish for the locals. Australia all out for 223, with 7 balls left unused.

Surely a great start for England? Now over to Bairstow and Roy and Root – who are blessed with the knowledge that they can play no-risk cricket for 30 overs or more. (Like the first two actually will, though). That alone must make them favourites…and yet. And yet the whole history of sport.

The reply. (How nervous are we?)

Fascinating to see how well-behaved, as it were, Roy and Bairstow are. They surely just need to sit, play some Test-like Cricket and let the runs happen around that? Except this goes absolutely against everything Morgan’s been driving for four years. So we can’t know. The policy is rubbing crazily, deliciously against the reality.

Behrendorff opens then Roy is magnificently straight-batted against Starc and England are 6-0 after 2. Ditto Bairstow (who creamed one through the covers first ball) against Starc’s lesser-known partner. Two airshots from Bairstow and a maiden for the ‘other’ gangly left-arm quick.

Special, special hands from Roy as he lasers Starc out through extra-cover for four. Then the openers dart for two. Good mix of stout defence and skilled breaking-out so far, from England. Roy again drives Starc through extra-cover majestically and England are 16 for 0 after 4.

When Starc gives Bairstow a little width, the Yorkshireman clatters him to the point boundary – timed, powerful. Wow. Then Roy dismisses – and I do mean dismisses – Starc to backward square  with an absurdly sweet flick. Suddenly England 31 for 0 off 6. Danger already, for Australia. They opt for Cummins.

Four dot balls, including a good bouncer, not too high. Two from the over.

I’m wondering how Carey’s feeling? In pain, I would think? Fancy ‘keeping to Starc, with a raging headache? Behrendorff has switched ends, interestingly. Bairstow clips him for two to leg then drives past him – slightly aerially – straight for four. Almost a return catch. 40 for 0, now, after 8. England significantly ahead.

Astonshingly, Roy is almost making this look easy. (Know that’s *fatal*). He is rolling the ball wherever he wants. The fifty comes up, for no loss. Can Lyons change anything?

No. Not immediately. Because immediately, Roy smashes him for 6.

It’s going to sound provocative if I relate that England’s most profound challenge is not currently the Australian bowling…but the injury sustained to Bairstow’s groin(!) With the score having moved on to 71 for 0, the poor lad needs several minutes of (ahem) medium-personal massage. But he does resume.

The nature of what he does may be different, however. Bairstow, in his relative infirmity, may engage slog mode. He even does it to Starc – over mid-off. Roy does it, straight after, even better. We really are nearly entitled to use the word ‘romp’ here. Roy goes to 50 with another four and England are 95 for 0 at drinks. Remarkable stuff.

But there’s more. Smith thinks he’ll try and make something happen, so has ‘a little bowl’. Roy smites him for THREE CONSECUTIVE SIXES. As I walk out the door, Roy is 75 off 57 balls and England are 119 for 0.

Guess what. I’m not joking. I have to go. There’s a Cricket-in-the-Castles event, in Pembroke, I have to attend. And no, I didn’t schedule it. Back later with some gloating – I mean reflections…

I’ve been away five hours. I’ve been busy – I’ve *actually been* a star. (Fancy-dress stylee. Was ‘entertaining’ young children at the event and also being mugged by the little darlings –  mostly, amazingly, while their parents looked on). Let me grab a brew and try to make some sense of all this.

You will probably know by now that England have absolutely crushed Australia, by 8 eight wickets and that their excellence with the ball (generally) has been more than matched by their superlative batting, from Roy and Bairstow in particular. The captain and his trusty placer-and-deflector (Root) finished things off in fine style, after Roy found another level against Starc and Cummins. Australia were never in it.

Edgbaston, the place, the icon, the cauldron unquestionably played a part but the century-plus stand (again) from the opening bats decimated any hopes Australia might have had.

It was not just the runs but the how of those runs: Roy smiting and somehow flicking and carting all at the same time. Bairstow – after a watchful phase – was belligerent and brilliant as so often. Yes it was The Partnership, The Platform that made this happen but Poms will be dreaming mainly tonight about how Roy swung those deliveries away as if immune to the alleged pressures of the moment. It was utterly exceptional… and it was against Oz, and for the final.

I note, at 9.35pm, that there are highlights on Channel Four at 10pm. Maybe I’ll watch Roy’s cruel dismissal – clearly a travesty – and savour the cruise home after he and his fellow demi-god walked from the scene. Maybe I don’t need to. I saw enough and have heard enough now, to confirm this as one of the great days for British sport. Let’s hope that Sunday brings more of the same.

We can’t argue that this was a vindication for Morgan’s Way, for this batting performance once again spoke of utter fearlessness and the expression of dominance not patience. However Roy and Bairstow were sagacious enough to get themselves in before beginning to unpick, or indeed dismember the Australian attack. Once at ease on a track that only Smith and Carey amongst their opponents seemed able to read, their quality and that rare, rare confidence shone.