Tactics Board: Where the Australia - England game could be won and lost

Around this time last year, England had just whitewashed Australia 5-0 in an ODI series, the latest in their streak of bilateral series wins at home. It feels light years away now, as they face off in a World Cup semi-final. Australia finished higher on the World Cup league table, have lost fewer games, and come in to this game having never lost a World Cup semi-final in their entire history.

Who will come out on top at Edgbaston? Here's where the second semi-final could be won and lost.

How will England cope with left-arm pace?

When Australia beat England in the league phase, Jason Behrendorff and Mitchell Starc got 9 for 87 between them, as match-winning as performances go. Behrendorff, interestingly, had played just one of their six games before that. As their assistant coach Brad Haddin explained later on, he was a pick based on match-ups: England don't handle left-arm quicks too well. They average 22.8 this World Cup, a far cry from 38.3 against right-armers, and it's just part of a longer trend with them.

Starc and Behrendorff are certain to start again, but a couple of things have changed: the venue, for starters, is Edgbaston, which has traditionally produced a lot more runs than Lord's. And Jason Roy, who missed the league fixture due to an injury, is back at the top of the order for England. How they cope with the two left-armers could have a big say in how this game goes.

Will the Roy-Bairstow run-machine keep firing?

Teams have have had success targeting Roy and Jonny Bairstow's weaknesses early on at this World Cup - think Imran Tahir, Shadab Khan and Mehidy Hasan Miraz opening the bowling - but on an Edgbaston wicket with few demons, the duo hammered India's wristspinners when they erred in length, en route to putting up 160 in 22 overs. They've since carried on the form that has made them the statistical GOAT opening pair (average 67.7, strike rate 118.5) in such a short span of time.

The downside to a lot of these statistics from the past four years is the fact that Australia have hardly played their first-choice attack, especially with Starc in it. For example, while Roy's numbers indicate he has been exceptional against them, he has often been dismissed by both Starc and Pat Cummins, averaging less than 30 when he has faced off against the pair.

They've come out on top in two virtual knockout games against India and New Zealand so far. Will they carry on, or will Australia's World Cup knockout smarts come through on the day?

Should England start with Adil Rashid to stop Warner - Finch?

David Warner and Aaron Finch added 123 runs against England at Lord's in the league game for the first wicket to set up the win for Australia. This time around, England would hope to dismiss at least one of them early. And Finch could be the one they could target. Historically, he has been troubled by two things early on: the inswinger and slow bowlers, in general. If Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer aren't able to swing the ball into Finch, England's next best option could be to bring on Adil Rashid.

Although Rashid has not dismissed Finch in the first 10 overs, Finch's record against wristspin in the first 10 overs hasn't been impressive, as Imran Tahir reminded by dismissing him in their last league game. Finch has been dismissed thrice in 17 deliveries of right-arm legspin in this World Cup, and Rashid himself has got him four times in the past. If England are to start the game well, an unpredictable move like this could be worth a shot.

Can the Australian middle order (finally) stand up?

Warner, Finch and Alex Carey have had such exceptional tournaments with the bat that Australia's middle-order failures have somewhat flown under the radar. The trio have made nearly 60 percent of Australia's runs in this World Cup. Their fourth shining light, Usman Khawaja, has been ruled out of the tournament with an injury.

The rest of their middle order have averaged a combined 27.4, the lowest in the field barring Afghanistan, and last the fewest balls per dismissal. Can Steven Smith lead the way on a big day? The semi-final stage is a familiar one for him - remember that match-winning hundred against India four years ago?

Also strengthening that core would be Peter Handscomb, who was unlucky to miss out on the squad, but has come in to replace of Khawaja. Handscomb averages 52 batting at No.4 and No.5 for Australia, and can handle spin with aplomb. So, to the question: can the Australia middle order finally stand up, if called to action?