Lord’s, London (CNN)First came the boos, then came the cruise.
Australian duo David Warner and Steve Smith were welcomed into one of the world’s most famous sporting theaters as pantomime villains amid a cacophony of boos and jeers.
By the time they took their leave, only the sound of Australian celebrations remained after an emphatic 64-run victory over England secured a place in the semifinals of the Cricket World Cup.
Facing arch rival England for the first time since returning from a 12-month ban for ball tampering, both men walked out to boos and jeers, though the most forceful were reserved for Smith.
Not that the extra attention from the crowd appeared to bother either man. Warner hit 53 to become the leading run scorer in the tournament, while Smith, whose dismissal was celebrated with a huge amount of glee by those in the stands, battled to 38.
Both men played their part in Australia reaching 285-7 from its 50 overs before helping to skittle England out for 221.
For England, yet more frustration.
A third defeat in seven group games leaves its participation in the final four of the 2019 Cricket World Cup in severe jeopardy.
It must now defeat either India or New Zealand, both unbeaten in the tournament so far, to ensure it does not suffer a similar fate to the last time it hosted the tournament in 1999 when it crashed out at the group stage.
As so often in an international competition, the ability to peak at the right time is crucial. For England, so dominant in one-day cricket over the past few years, it appears that peak is now fading out of view.
Already under pressure following two disappointing defeats by Pakistan and Sri Lanka, England was up against it from the start as Australia made a fast start at Lord’s.
Aaron Finch, the Australian captain, struck a century and his opening partnership of 123 with Warner allowed the visiting side to take control of the contest.
England, victorious in 10 of its past 12 one-day games against Australia, appeared rattled. Poor fielding, dropped catches and inaccurate bowling left it facing an uphill struggle.
Chasing 286 for victory, England’s task became nigh on impossible after losing its opening three wickets for just 26 runs.
Ben Stokes offered some resistance by hitting 89 but once he was dismissed by Mitchell Starc, England’s hopes of an unlikely victory were all but ended.
More worrying for England will be the sight of Bangladesh, a point behind, coming up on the rails. Sri Lanka, two points behind but with a game in hand, will also fancy its chances of gatecrashing the semifinals.
What was unthinkable only weeks ago — that the top-ranked host nation could not make the final four — is now becoming a more realistic possibility.
And if that happens, you can bet you’ll hear some boos.