BIRMINGHAM, England (Reuters) - Australia have made significant progress in the last one year but ended up producing one of their worst performances of the World Cup in Thursday’s semi-final against England, captain Aaron Finch said on Thursday.
Australia stumbled through a dreadful 2018 following the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal which earned former skipper Steve Smith and his deputy David Warner lengthy bans.
They ended a six-series losing streak with back-to-back series victories over India and Pakistan and, bolstered by the return of Smith and Warner, finished second in the group stage of the World Cup.
A merciless England, however, wrecked their title defence, crushing them by eight wickets with nearly 18 overs to spare.
“In terms of where we were 12 months ago, obviously I think we have made a huge amount of progress,” Finch said after Australia’s first defeat in a World Cup semi-final.
“Really proud of everyone involved for how much hard work and how far we have come, but at the same time we came here today to win a semi-final and get ourselves into a position to win another World Cup.
“So that was really disappointing how it ended, especially to put up probably one of our worst performances overall for the tournament. That was really disappointing.”
Finch made a golden duck himself in Australia’s abject batting capitulation against England’s formidable bowling attack.
The five-time champions were 14-3 in the seventh over before Smith and Alex Carey, who batted with a bandaged jaw after being hit by a Jofra Archer delivery, forged a century partnership to help them to a below-par 223.
England chased down the target in a little over 32 overs to set up a final clash with New Zealand.
Finch was not surprised how English bowlers went for the jugular after he elected to bat at Edgbaston.
“They have done it quite a bit in this tournament. They’ve got bowlers that hit the seam and if there is anything in the wicket, they will certainly get it out of it.
“Chris Woakes, a world-class bowler, puts it in the right area time and time again.
“Archer is getting better and better as he’s starting to play a bit more international cricket as well, so definitely wasn’t a surprise.”
Defending such a meagre total, Finch said Australia needed early wickets.
“We know they were going to come really aggressive at us with the bat, so we had to be aggressive with the ball,” Finch said.
“We had to take or create 10 chances and take them as well. It wasn’t going to be a game that peters out into the 47th, 48th over. It was going to be ultra-aggressive and they got on top of us early with the bat.”
Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty, editing by Ed Osmond