LONDON, June 25 (IANS): Mitchell Starc produced a world-class yorker to get rid of the dangerous Ben Stokes while Jason Behrendorff returned career best figures to hand Australia a place in the semifinal with a 64-run win over hosts England in a high-octane World Cup group stage clash at the Lord's here on Tuesday.
Starc (4/43) first reduced England to 26/3 with the wickets of in-form Joe Root (8) and skipper Eoin Morgan (4) as the hosts set out to chase 286 for victory after the Aussies posted 285/7 in 50 overs.
But Stokes (89; 115b, 4x8, 6x2) threatened to take the game away from Australia with a brilliant innings before Starc, back for his second spell, castled the England all-rounder with an impeccable off-stump yorker, tailing away as it zeroed in on the base of the pole.
Stokes kicked his bat away in agony as his dismissal halted his team's fightback as England folded for 221 in 44.4 overs.
England will now have to win both their remaining games against India and New Zealand to ensure their passage to the semifinals. Australia, on the other hand, are atop of the points tally with 12 points from seven matches. England are placed fourth with eight points in their kitty from as many outings.
England were off to a disastrous start when Behrendorff (5/44) castled James Vince (0) with the second ball of the innings with an inswinging delivery. Starc then got the important wickets of Root, trapped plumb in front, and Morgan, who top-edged a bouncer to Pat Cummins at fine leg.
Jonny Bairstow (27) did not last long, holing out to Cummins at deep midwicket off Behrendorff with England tottering at 53/4. Stokes and Jos Buttler then shared a 71-run stand for the fifth wicket before Usman Khawaja took a brilliant catch at deep square leg to send Buttler back in the hut off Marcus Stoinis.
Chris Woakes (26) then joined Stokes to stitch together a 53-run partnership and keep England's hopes alive. Stokes took on Maxwell in the 31st over, spanking him for two sixes. Cummins came back for his second spell in the 34th over only to be taken for two fours by Woakes and Stokes as the pitch started easing out a bit as the ball got older, making batting more comfortable.
In Cummins' next over, Stokes hit a couple of fours while Woakes smashed another. But just when England, and Stokes in particular, looked to shift gears and tilt the balance of the game, Starc showed why he is regarded so highly with the wicket of the England all-rounder.
It was all downhill for England from there on as Starc took the final wicket by removing Adil Rashid (25).
Earlier, Australia frittered away a superb start to let England bowlers claw back and eventually restrict them to 285/7. Skipper Aaron Finch scored 100 off 116 balls, his innings laced with 11 fours and two sixes, as the Aussies were off to a dream start with both openers milking the English bowlers to all corners of the ground with ease.
Finch and David Warner (53; 61b, 4x6) shared a 123-run opening stand in just 22.4 overs before Moeen Ali (1/42) had Warner caught by Joe Root at backward point.
Usman Khawaja (23) and Finch then continued the good work with a 50-run partnership but Stokes (1/29) clean-bowled the former with a delivery right into the blockhole which shaped back to crash into his stumps.
Finch brought up his 15th ODI hundred off 115 balls. But all his good work was undone in the very next delivery as he was sucked into hooking a Jofra Archer (1/56) short ball straight down the throat of Chris Woakes at fine leg.
Finch was seemingly furious with his shot selection and his team slumped from there on as Glenn Maxwell (12) fell cheaply to Mark Wood while Marcus Stoinis (8) was run out.
Wicketkeeper-batsman Alex Carey's 38-run unbeaten cameo (27b, 4x5) helped the Aussies recover a fair bit in the end, but they could still not manage a 300-plus score which looked a certainty as long as Finch was at the crease.
Steve Smith (38; 34b, 4x5) tried to up the ante but in the process holed out to Archer at long on off Woakes as England firmly wrested back control.
From 185/3 in the 36th over when Finch departed, the Aussies could manage another 100 runs for the loss of four wickets in 15-odd overs.
For England, Chris Woakes (2/46) returned best figures but it was a collective effort with the ball for the hosts.
Brief scores: Australia: 285/7 in 50 overs (Aaron Finch 100, David Warner 53; Chris Woakes 2/46); England: 221 all out in 44.4 overs (Ben Stokes 89, Jason Behrendorff 5/44, Mitchell Starc 4/43)