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Don Topley: Batting first has worked for England

England's Jonny Bairstow celebrates reaching another century in the World Cup Photo: PA

England's Jonny Bairstow celebrates reaching another century in the World Cup Photo: PA

PA Wire/PA Images

In his latest column, DON TOPLEY, looks ahead to England's World Cup semi-final next week.

England's Mark Wood (right) celebrates taking the wicket of New Zealand's Mitchell Santner with team mates England's Eoin Morgan during the ICC Cricket World Cup group stage match at Riverside Durham, Chester-le-Street. Photo: PAEngland's Mark Wood (right) celebrates taking the wicket of New Zealand's Mitchell Santner with team mates England's Eoin Morgan during the ICC Cricket World Cup group stage match at Riverside Durham, Chester-le-Street. Photo: PA

Eoin Morgan's England side have emphatically beaten two top teams to claim their place in the World Cup semi-final this Thursday at Edgbaston - the last time England had such a semi-final was back in 1992.

We all know England surprisingly lost three games (Pakistan, Australia and Sri Lanka), but where England are fortunate is that they haven't lost a game to weather, when points are shared, one point each.

When looking at the points table, England, Australia and Afghanistan are the only sides who have not fallen foul of the weather.

The early weeks of this World Cup were hit with terrible weather and the ICC was extremely concerned. Umpires and match referees were under pressure to play, even when wet.

Had England (like many others), endured a rained-off game they may not have qualified for the semis. Enduring a 'no result' against a lesser side like Afghanistan, South Africa or the West Indies is a huge disadvantage. Sri Lanka spent much time in the west of England (Cardiff, Bristol and Taunton) and endured two rained-off games, officially complaining to the ICC.

They felt aggrieved: as we all know the west gets far more rain.

When England needed a performance, and under immense pressure, they delivered superbly.

England 's Chris Woakes celebrates taking the wicket of India's Rohit Sharma during the ICC Cricket World Cup group stage match at Edgbaston, Birmingham.England 's Chris Woakes celebrates taking the wicket of India's Rohit Sharma during the ICC Cricket World Cup group stage match at Edgbaston, Birmingham.

The captain, Morgan, and head coach, Trevor Bayliss held honest and open talks with the entire squad. Everyone was invited to contribute and did - refocusing on their initial objectives.

Jonny Bairstow, as a tough speaking Yorkshireman, went out of his way to criticise a few journalists who he felt 'wanted England to fail'.

I am not sure about that but Bairstow certainly appeared to be motivated by his anger as he impressively scored back-to-back centuries against India and New Zealand.

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Jason Roy returned - although not 100% fit - and I think his return boosted Bairstow. Having someone the quality of Roy at the other end scoring freely takes the pressure off the other batsman. Bairstow has also suffered two first ball ducks in this tournament but now has two brilliant match-winning centuries too.

Ben Stokes has been solid with his efforts, often batting responsibly. Liam Plunkett has silenced his critics with two good performances, and I am very happy he is playing in place of Moeen Ali.

The one current concern for me is Jofra Archer. He looks injured and jaded with his pace down.

India fans show their support during the ICC Cricket World Cup. Photo: PAIndia fans show their support during the ICC Cricket World Cup. Photo: PA

I am sure they will all have time off and even time at home - the advantage of hosting the tournament. They may reconvene on Tuesday for two days practice before the semi-final.

So, after a couple of wobbles, England are at least in the final four.

But what's changed for Team England tactically?

One notable change is that Morgan is prepared to bat first, post a total and defend it. History tells you he would happily opt to bat second.

The Kookaburra white ball (two are used - one from each end) becomes soft over its 25 overs. The best time to bat is against the new ball, which pings off the bat in the first 10 over PowerPlay. As the ball gets older on our slower wickets, it becomes a bit more of a challenge to keep up with demanding run-rates.

Many sides are now experiencing this and I would expect whoever plays England to opt to bat should they win the toss on Thursday.

Edgbaston will have a fresh pitch on Thursday which will help England's cause.

A general view of Edgbaston. Photo: PAA general view of Edgbaston. Photo: PA

Then it is on to Lord's next Sunday for the World Cup Final.

Let's hope England are there and they can bring home the trophy.

How good would that be?

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