Champions Trophy 2017: England's attacking brilliance now the norm

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Morgan and Stokes blast 'new' England to victory

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.

In the 88 ODIs they played between the 2011 and 2015 World Cups, their batsmen hit a total of 22 centuries. In the 47 matches they have played since then, they have hit 25. Of their past 17 home fixtures, they have lost only two.

It is a revolution forged from self-confidence, a charge built upon embracing risk and attack in place of defence.

Of the 159-run partnership between Morgan and Stokes, 106 runs came in boundaries. There were seven sixes and 16 fours, few of them tickled, many of them clattered.

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Stokes flicks Cummins for sublime four

Stokes' half-century came up off 39 balls, which was impressive enough until you realised that 20 of those were dot balls, meaning he had actually scored 52 runs off 19 scoring shots.

Thirty-eight of those 52 runs came in boundaries, some pulled off his chest over deep mid-wicket, others battered straight, a few crashed through backward point. Had the rain not come again, his eventual 102 not out might have become much more.

Morgan, not a character to cool his boots in the shadows, matched him blow for blow. His 87 was garlanded by eight fours and five sixes, his build slight compared to the flanker-sized Stokes - but the results from his bat just the same.

Stokes has been in sensational form in the IPL. Morgan has hit more sixes in this tournament than any other batsmen. Their past three partnerships together before Saturday totalled 110, 68 and 95.

Predictable indeed, and welcomed around Edgbaston in the style Australian defeats always are here.

It is the Eric Hollies Stand that is the beating heart of this ground, or at least its thirsty throat. Quite what the former Warwickshire leg-spinner would have made of the scenes in the seats that bear his name is harder to divine.

When Hollies dismissed Don Bradman for a second-ball duck in the great Australian's final Test innings, the crowd was so shocked there were several moments of silence. Eventually a lone voice from the gallery cried out, "Well played, Eric!"

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Roy's brilliant catch sparks Australia collapse

As Stokes and Morgan laid waste to Smith's attack, the massed ranks in the Hollies - many dressed as escaped prisoners, or half-cut orangutans, or hairy-calved nuns - were singing massed choruses of Sweet Caroline. As the sixes rained down upon them, they serenaded the fielder on the boundary with repeated choruses of "Finchy's Going Home".

Hollies once went 71 consecutive innings without reaching double figures. While Jason Roy might be able to empathise, Stokes and Morgan could barely go consecutive balls without a run.

It left Smith as much a spectator as the record-breaking 24,227 in the stands, and means England will march into Wednesday's semi-final in Cardiff with expectations running away.

As a bowling unit they can both squeeze the opposition and then profit from the panic that follows. Adil Rashid and Mark Wood both took four wickets, but are also the two most economical bowlers in the tournament among those to have bowled 15 overs or more.

Hollies the bowler would have appreciated Rashid's googlies just as Hollies the batsman would not have seen Wood's 90 miles an hour Yorkers. Smith would have liked to have even one of them to turn to.

Instead he must wait for six months and the Ashes to gain revenge. England, by contrast, are moving on. Fast.

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