BIRMINGHAM: Ben Stokes hit a career-best 102 not out and captain Eoin Morgan 87 as England knocked Australia out of the Champions Trophy with a 40-run win over their arch-rivals at Edgbaston on Saturday.
England collapsed to 35 for three chasing 278 for victory before left-handers Morgan and Stokes changed the course of the game with a fourth-wicket partnership of 159 off 158 balls.
Stokes’s third one-day international century was his highest score at this level after the all-rounder had twice made 101.
When a second downpour finally saw play abandoned for the day, England were 240 for four off 40.2 overs — well ahead of the 200 they needed for victory at that stage on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method for rain-affected limited-overs matches.
“His potential is through the roof,” said Morgan of Stokes. “His batting was exceptional.”
Asked how they had revived England’s innings, Morgan added: “They (Australia) bowled really well up front and got the ball moving.
“We felt that, I suppose, the positive way was the best way.”
World Cup champions Australia had to win this match to join already-qualified England in the semi-finals of a tournament featuring the world’s leading eight ODI teams after no result washouts in their previous two Group A fixtures.
But this defeat saw Bangladesh, who beat New Zealand by five wickets in Cardiff on Friday, into the last four instead as England made it three wins out of three in the pool stage.
Earlier, fast bowler Mark Wood and leg-spinner Adil Rashid both took four wickets as Australia were held to 277 for nine after Morgan won the toss.
Durham quick Wood returned ODI best figures of four for 33 in his maximum 10 overs, while Rashid’s haul of four for 41 was the Yorkshireman’s best against a Test nation at this level.
Travis Head’s unbeaten 71 kept Australia in the game after earlier fifties from Finch (68) and captain Steve Smith (56).
But with 300 now a par score in this format, Australia’s cause was not helped by the loss of five wickets for just 15 runs in 26 deliveries.
“I thought we let ourselves down a little bit today,” Smith said.
“We kept losing wickets through the middle, and someone in the top four probably needed to go on and make a hundred.
“We weren’t able to do that. We lost five for 15 at one point as well, which you can’t afford to do against an opposition like England.”
England lost Jason Roy just two balls into their chase when he was lbw to left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Starc, with the struggling Surrey batsman now having managed just 51 runs in eight ODI innings this season.
Fellow opener Alex Hales fell for a duck when he edged Josh Hazlewood low to Aaron Finch at first slip, with Hazlewood following up to have Joe Root (15) caught behind.
– ‘Momentum shift’ –
That left England 35 for three before a brief rain break halted Australia’s charge, with Morgan — dropped on 12 when wicket-keeper Matthew Wade failed to hold a tough diving legside chance off Hazlewood — 14 not out and Stokes yet to score.
“It seemed like there was a bit of a momentum shift after that rain delay,” said Smith. “You know, Stokesy and Morgy came out and played very positively.
“We gave them a lot of freebies, but they did play exceptionally well.”
Morgan and Stokes were particularly severe on first-change Pat Cummins (none for 55 in eight overs).
Stokes completed a 39-ball half century featuring eight fours when he hooked Starc for six, with Morgan following him to the landmark in 51 balls.
Morgan went to 85 with a huge soaring six after clubbing Hazlewood into the stands to the delight of the 24,227 crowd — a record ODI attendance at Edgbaston.
Morgan, however, fell 13 short of a century when, after Stokes’s chip fell just short of midwicket, he did not respond to a call for a single and was run out by Adam Zampa’s direct hit.
Morgan faced 81 balls including eight fours and five sixes.
Stokes though was not to be denied, forcing leg-spinner Zampa for his 13th four to complete a 108-ball century also featuring two sixes.