Four years of planning will be put on the line for England when they face holders Australia in a blockbuster World Cup semi-final at Edgbaston today.
England’s woeful first-round exit at the 2015 edition prompted a complete rethink of their approach to one-day internationals for a side that had long placed Test success above all other considerations.
Australian coach Trevor Bayliss was drafted in with the aim of guiding their bid for a first World Cup title.
The transformation has been impressive, with England climbing to number one in the ODI rankings under the astute captaincy of Eoin Morgan.
Their rise to the summit has been based on dynamic run-scoring, with in-form openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow leading the way.
But the stakes for hosts England are higher than simply the winning of a match that would see them into a final against New Zealand at Lord´s on Sunday.
Host broadcaster Sky has said it will allow the final to be shown on free-to-air television in Britain — but only if England are involved in the showpiece match.
It would be the first time since 2005 that a major England men’s home match had emerged from behind a UK television paywall, with cricket having a chance to reconnect with a ‘lost’ audience in its birthplace.
But Morgan urged England to avoid being overawed by the scale of the task confronting them in Birmingham.
“Sometimes I’m guilty of it, you can lose sight of the position you´re in and the fact you´re living your dream,” Morgan said on Wednesday.
Australia, however, have never lost any of their seven previous World Cup semi-finals — although they did tie with South Africa at Edgbaston 20 years ago before advancing into the final thanks to their superior net run-rate from the preceding ‘Super Six’ stage.
England had won 10 of their last 11 ODIs against Australia prior to the World Cup.
But that counted for nothing when Australia landed a psychological blow in the group stage, beating Ashes rivals England by 64 runs at Lord´s last month.
Australia left-arm quicks Jason Behrendorff and Mitchell Starc shared nine wickets between them in a match where Australia captain Aaron Finch made 100 after surviving a testing opening from England´s fast bowlers.