England sauntered into their first Cricket World Cup final in 27 years – a scenario Eoin Morgan “would have laughed at” if it were presented to him following their group-stage exit four years ago.
A remarkably comfortable eight-wicket victory over Australia at Edgbaston ushered England into the Lord’s showpiece against New Zealand on Sunday.
It is a far cry from their watershed 2015 tournament in Australia and New Zealand, when a pitiful group-stage exit sparked a transformation, led by Morgan, in how England approach one-day internationals.
Morgan said: “Us, as a team, we have learnt to enjoy ourselves, particularly days like this, even if they don’t go well.
“If you had offered us the position to play in a final the day after we were knocked out of 2015 World Cup, I would have laughed at you. (Being in the final) sounds pretty cool and it feels pretty good.”
England’s white-ball metamorphosis has seen them go top of the ODI rankings, and the hosts were pre-tournament favourites to go all the way for the first time on the global stage in the 50-over format.
Morgan, however, urged caution, adding: “I wouldn’t get too carried away yet.
“It is obviously a very exciting time for everybody and ourselves included.
“I think giving ourselves the opportunity for Sunday’s final is brilliant. We’ll be giving it everything we can in order to try and win that game.
“I think Sunday’s not a day to shy away from, it’s a day to look forward to, much like (against Australia).
Giving ourselves the opportunity for Sunday’s final is brilliant. We’ll be giving it everything we can in order to try and win that game. Sunday’s not a day to shy away from, it’s a day to look forward to, much like (against Australia).Eoin Morgan
“We have created the opportunity to play in a World Cup final. It will be a matter of the same again trying to produce everything that we can performance-wise but enjoy the day.”
The showdown with the Kiwis, whom England beat in the group stage by a thumping 119-run margin to guarantee their progress to the knockout stages, will be broadcast on Channel 4 and More 4 after a deal was struck with Sky Sports.
England’s matches have almost exclusively been shown by subscription channels since the 2005 Ashes, and Morgan has welcomed the prospect of a greater audience on free-to-air television cheering them on.
He said: “It’s very cool. Particularly given the 2005 Ashes for me was sort of the day cricket became cool.
“Throughout the whole summer, the game was on the front and back page of every newspaper going around, everyone was talking about it and that is really good for the game. It’s the game I love, so it’s great news that it’s on free-to-air.”
England produced one of the most accomplished performances under Morgan to book their spot in the final, Chris Woakes and Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid taking three wickets apiece as Australia were all out for 223 in 49 overs – Steve Smith offering the stiffest resistance with a defiant 85 after his team had slipped to 14-3.
In reply, Jason Roy struck a mesmeric 85 from 65 balls – including nine fours and five sixes – and put on yet another century stand alongside Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow to break the back of the chase.
Yorkshire’s Joe Root finished on 49 not out, while Morgan fittingly hit the winning boundary to finish unbeaten on 45 as England wrapped up a thumping victory with 107 balls to spare.
Morgan added: “We have got better and better as a group.
“Everybody out there on the field and even in the changing room loved every ball that was bowled.
“There was no lack of commitment, application and we had a bit of a day out which, it’s cool when it happens like that – particularly when the bowlers bowl like that, it is awesome.”
Australia captain Aaron Finch accepted his side were very much second best on the day.
“All in all we were totally outplayed to be honest, all throughout the day,” said Finch.
“The damage was really done with the ball.
“Definitely in the first 10 overs of the game.”
Roy’s fabulous innings ended on a sour note when he was controversially given out caught behind.
The big-hitting opener was adamant he had not touched Pat Cummins’s delivery and attempted to review, which umpire Kumar Dharmasena signalled, only for Australia to point out England had none left.
Roy furiously remonstrated with Dharmasena and his colleague Marais Erasmus before slowly trudging off, even continuing his protestations with the two officials as he exited.
Roy escaped serious censure for the incident, but although he was fined 30 per cent of his match fee, he will be available to face the Black Caps, the ICC confirmed.