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The unreality of Adil Rashid's greatness

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A position in the next World Cup final in 2015? I'd have laughed - Morgan (0:46)

The England captain revisits the low of the last World Cup, and acknowledges the cynicism of fans (0:46)

England have a legspinner. England. Have. A. Legspinner. No matter how many times you say these four words, it sounds like make believe. Shout it out. Say it really slowly. Whisper it. Say it in a different language. It still doesn't sound real. It's been four years into Adil Rashid's career - let's ignore his five games pre-2015 - and sorry, it still sounds like something somebody's made up.

Because England can't have a legspinner. England never have a legspinner. England to legspin is like - well, it might be that there is no analogy that stretches enough to quite capture the unreality of this situation. There's this for starters. England had played 644 ODIs in their entire history as on May 7, 2015. That is the day before Rashid played the first game of the rest of his career, though right now the rest of his life might feel more appropriate.

WATCH on Hotstar: Australia's fall of wickets (Indian viewers only)

In those 644 ODIs, specialist legspinners had taken - wait for this - nine wickets out of England's 4134 wickets. Three of those nine were Rashid's in his first time as an England player. English ODI legspinners who are not Adil Rashid, therefore, had taken six wickets in England's entire ODI history until then. English ODI legspinners who are not Adil Rashid are Scott Borthwick, Joe Denly and Ian Salisbury who, but for player profile pages, you may not have known existed. Adil Rashid has now taken nearly 24 times as many wickets as all other English legspinners combined - that is how unreal it is that England now have a legspinner.

Nearly every other country has had a white-ball legspinner, and ones who've made some kind of impact at a World Cup. Even Kenya had Collins Obuya. Canada had Balaji Rao. And poor Daan van Bunge, whose impact was of another kind in 2007, but it was off legspin that Herschelle Gibbs wrote him into history. England, meanwhile, took Rashid with them to the 2011 World Cup. And then didn't play him in a single game. In a World Cup played out in the subcontinent.

Not only do they have a legspinner, they have one who has now made a decisive impact in a decisive game. Not only do they have a legspinner who has now made a decisive impact in a decisive game for them - and this really is the key - he has been allowed to make this decisive impact in this decisive game. As if, suddenly, England has understood that one of the things about legspin, ancient or modern, is that you have to be patient with them.

Because, in truth, it hadn't been a great tournament for Rashid until now. Before this game, he had eight wickets at 54. He was hit out of the attack by Pakistan. Didn't complete his ten overs against India. The googly wasn't working. The shoulder's been hurting. He's been without Moeen Ali for half the games he's played - and Moeen's importance to Rashid is, well, important.

How often in the past would England have cut their losses and gone with, as an example, a better allround option, like Moeen himself who, you know, could get through some overs without giving too much away, score some runs too, fill a hole here, a gap there.

How often would an England past have looked at Rashid's red-ball record and lost the faith? England isn't alone in still confusing red-ball legspin skills with white-ball legspin skills, as they did last year in recalling Rashid to the Test side, but that could've gone badly. In that light, something Moeen said recently, that Rashid doesn't get the credit he deserves still kind of rang true. "Everyone knows he's a very good spinner but they never talk about him as one of the great spinners, which I think he is for England - particularly in the one-day stuff. I can't think of a better spinner who played for England than him."

And yet, game by game through this tournament, game by game over four years really in which Rashid has played 93 out of England's 98 ODIs - the most by any English player incidentally, even Eoin Morgan - England have stuck with him. And stuck is the wrong word because it sounds a little like they've had no other choice. Morgan has not stuck with Rashid, he has treated him much as Moeen's assessment has it - as a great.

Whether that was at Trent Bridge in 2015, where he had Rashid bowl the 50th over against New Zealand having gone for 28 in the 48th; in Grenada this year when Rashid took four wickets in the 48th over to finally extinguish West Indies' chase of 418. As much as England's gung-ho batting style, Rashid has been an absolute non-negotiable.

And all that backing, all that faith, all of it came through in two balls on Thursday. It doesn't matter what his other 58 legal deliveries did because all that really matters is those two deliveries. Go ahead and point out that Australia's innings was done for in those first ten overs. Won't find too much argument here.

But this was Australia. This was Steve Smith channelling all kinds of Australianism and this was Alex Carey, Australia's real player of the tournament. The mood was shifting. And this was England, in this momentous game, and here was a genuine legspinner.

The first ball did the job: the importance of the Carey wicket far outweighs the merits of the delivery itself. The next ball?

The next ball made the dream; next ball's the one why legspinners always make sense; next ball's the one you live a lifetime to bowl, that you live a lifetime to watch; next ball's the one you wreck your shoulder and hip for; next ball's the one that takes on a life of its own. It wasn't that it was a googly, a delivery that he relies on so much but one that has not really come out to play this World Cup.

It was that it disappeared Marcus Stoinis and Australia from this equation, from this stage, from this moment. Everything that followed was formality. Twenty-seven years on and still nobody's forgotten the daddy googly that this so resembled - Mushtaq Ahmed's to Graeme Hick at the MCG.

England's batsmen have done some crazy things over the last four years. But this is true that England have a legspinner and that he's won them a World Cup semi-final and the mind boggles at nothing more than this.