England, said Australia captain Steve Smith in the build-up to this Champions Trophy instalment of a rivalry that predates mown pitches, are too predictable as a one-day side.


Perhaps he is right. They began their innings by losing two wickets in six balls, something England teams have been doing against Australia for decades. They continued it at the same unholy lick they have been careering along at for the past two years. They ended it with the result they have been banging out all tournament.

Predictable, and seemingly impossible to stop. What had been 6-2, and then 35-3, the target of 278 disappearing in the grey clouds, became 194-3 at almost exactly a run a ball. A few overs and a lot of rain later, England were heading to Cardiff for the semi-finals, Smith to Heathrow airport for the long flight home.

This is not a normal England side, and Ben Stokes is not your average batsmen. Neither is Eoin Morgan. Together they lit up this match with the sort of counter-attacking brilliance that wins tournaments and sends world champions out before the group stage is over.

Smith and his team will climb on to the plane with damp socks and a deep resentment at the weather they have faced this past nine days. Having had their first two matches rained off, they were clambering all over England when drizzle interrupted the contest with Stokes fresh to the crease.

As the England pair came back out there was every expectation of further tribulation to come. Instead, Morgan crashed the first two deliveries away for boundaries, and what might have been a rearguard became an all-out assault.

This is not the way England used to do things. At the World Cup two years ago it was not only safety first but caution second, with comprehensive defeat close behind in third. In a digital world England were analogue, digging in while opponents advanced at pace, cashing out while others cashed in.

Under Morgan’s captaincy, all that has changed. Since that humiliation, knocked out at the group stage of a competition designed to give the big boys second, third and fourth chances, they have averaged six sixes in every ODI innings, more than any other nation. [/restrict]