In the end, it was worth the wait.
Some 9,989 days had passed since England’s men last won a game at the Cricket World Cup against Australia. Not that anyone had been counting of course.
On that occasion, in 1992, England reached the final, though English fans will hope this particular final chapter has a far happier ending.
This eight-wicket victory, which secured England’s place in Sunday’s final against New Zealand at Lord’s, will long be remembered for the way that the host nation dismantled its greatest rival in its customary swashbuckling style.
Chasing 224 to win, England eased home courtesy of Jason Roy’s electric innings of 85 from 65 deliveries as he and fellow opener Jonny Bairstow put on 124 for the first wicket.
From there, not even England, at least not this England, could fluff its lines.
It was not just the victory itself that will have thrilled England’s long-suffering cricket fans, but the way it was achieved. It was, to all intents and purposes, beautifully constructed.
The sight of Roy launching three consecutive sixes off the bowling of Australian pantomime villain Steve Smith will be played over and over again on television and on social media for years to come.
For so long, England’s one day team was an analogue player in a digital world – a world where England had seemingly been left behind having failed to reach a World Cup final since 1992.
The intervening 27 years have brought embarrassments, humiliations, root and branch reviews, and more abject failure. In the same period, Australia has won four of the six World Cups.
But this England team looks different. Cast your mind back four years to the 2015 World Cup, a tournament in which England crashed out at the group stage.
It was thrashed by both eventual winner Australia and runner-up New Zealand in merciless fashion, two defeats that left English one day cricket in crisis.
Four years later, England’s fortunes have been transformed.
England arrived at this tournament as the No.1 ranked team, as favorite to win its first ever World Cup, and with a team full of world class talent.
True the team’s passage to the last four was not without discomfort. Three defeats in the group stage, including one by Australia at Lord’s, placed England under far more pressure than it should have ever had to negotiate.
That it handled the pressure so impressively with victories over India and finalist New Zealand, underlined the character and resilience of this England team.
Still, this was Australia. Australia the five-time world champion. Australia the seven-time World Cup semifinalist that had never lost a last four clash. The Australia that had each of its past four World Cup games against England.
But this felt different. England expected. England was ready. That Australia stood in the way of a place in the final only heightened the anticipation.
READ: India crashes out at semifinal stage
READ: England gave Jofra Archer ‘all the respect’ he deserves, says Richards
Earlier in the tournament, Eoin Morgan, the England captain, opined that the rivalry between the two sides had perhaps lost its edge given the frequency with which they face one another.
Such a view is not unreasonable, given the two teams played a one-day series in England last summer and will face each other in an Ashes series next month.
The contest at Lord’s last month, which Australia won by 63 runs, was a largely uneventful affair. The crowd appeared subdued, the normal edge to an England vs. Australia clash was missing.
But this was completely different. This felt raw, almost visceral.
Edgbaston helps. One of the more boisterous and riotous cricket arenas on these shores has proved a happy home for England in recent times.
No doubt it played some part in rattling the Australians as Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes left the Australians bloodied and bruised when the team batted.
Bloodied and bruised
Alex Carey was left with a bleeding gash on his chin after being struck by a ferocious delivery by Archer as Australia recovered from a disastrous start to finish 223 all out after winning the toss and electing to bat.
Wicketkeeper Carey entered the action with Australia having lost its first three wickets for just 14 runs as the defending champion’s top order was blown away by the England pace duo of Archer and Chris Woakes.
It was Archer’s delivery that drew gasps from the crowd, as the ball rose up to knock off Carey’s helmet before hitting the chin and drawing blood.
As the blood started to trickle down Carey’s chin, the team doctors raced onto the field to apply dressing to the wound and wrapped the player’s chin with a bandage which was woven around his head.
There was no malice in Archer’s delivery, which knocked against the grille of Carey’s helmet, sending it hurtling into the air before the batsman caught it and ensured his stumps remained intact.
For someone playing in only their 29th one day international, Carey showed remarkable poise and courage after the incident, hitting 46 in a partnership of 103 with Steve Smith, before having his wound stitched up after leaving the field.
Smith, a lightning rod for abuse from England supporters, endured his now customary hostile reception, as he walked out to bat.
Few England supporters have forgotten Smith’s transgression. He along with fellow Australian David Warner received a 12-month ban from all forms of cricket last year after being found guilty of ball tampering.
But while there is some comic nature to booing and jeers aimed at Smith, there is also grudging respect.
One of the world’s most talented batsmen, Smith fought hard for his 85 as Australia rallied after a disastrous start to its innings.
Archer, one of the stand out bowlers of the tournament so far, removed Australia captain Aaron Finch for none before Woakes had Warner caught behind to leave Australia 10-2.
Peter Handscomb, drafted into the team without having been part of the original squad, made just four before Woakes rearranged his stumps with a beautiful delivery.
At 14-3, Australia was creaking, but as so often has been the case, Smith took control.
Alongside Carey, the duo added 103 to nudge their side to within grasp of a respectable total.
Carey, in particular, looked in good touch. His contribution of 46 off 70 deliveries was even more impressive given the knock to the face he took earlier in the innings.
But once Carey had departed, caught on the boundary off the bowling of spinner Adil Rashid, England attempted to press home its advantage.
Marcus Stoinis was dismissed without scoring while the dangerous Glenn Maxwell made a quickfire 22 off 23 deliveries before Archer struck once again.
Rashid then had Pat Cummins, his third victim of the day, caught at slip by Joe Root for six to leave Australia on 166-7, which brought Mitchell Starc to the crease.
The new batting pair adding 50 between them before Smith was wonderfully run out by Jos Buttler for 85,
Starc followed the very next ball, edging Woakes behind to Buttler for 29 as Australia finished on 223.
Such a total was always unlikely to trouble an England side fired by two of the most in-form batsmen in the tournament.
Roy and Bairstow blew Australia’s opening bowlers away with an opening partnership of 124 before the latter was dismissed for 34.
Roy played beautifully for his 85 before being given out caught behind, though replays showed he had not touched the ball.
Unfortunately for Roy, England had already used up its review, leaving captain Eoin Morgan and Joe Root to finish the first part of the job and get the party started.
After 27 years of waiting, England is desperate to make up for lost time. Lord’s awaits.