Home » England’s T20 World Cup dream hinges on two biggest rivals after feeble loss to Australia

England’s T20 World Cup dream hinges on two biggest rivals after feeble loss to Australia

England’s chances of defending its T20 World Cup crown hinges on the performances of its two biggest rivals following Saturday’s feeble loss to Australia in Bridgetown.

The reigning champions face the daunting prospect of being knocked out in the group stage after Mitchell Marsh’s clinical Australians cruised towards a 36-run victory at Kensington Oval.

England, still searching for its first victory of the tournament, was utterly outclassed in all three facets of the game, leaving Jos Buttler’s men teetering on the brink of elimination; another washout during the group stage would be enough for them to start booking seats on the next flight to Heathrow.

Having already suffered an early exit during last year’s World Cup in India, England will be desperate to avoid repeating the downward spiral in the Caribbean, but the warning signs were glaringly apparent in the Barbados capital this weekend.

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After winning the toss and electing to field first, Buttler threw the Kookaburra towards part-time spinner Will Jacks, who had previously bowled two overs in T20Is, for the second over of the Powerplay. The inexperienced tweaker, tasked with defending a short leg-side boundary against two of the world’s best ball-strikers, conceded 22 runs during his lone over to get Australia’s innings off to a flying start.

Buttler later confessed the decision to open the bowling with two spinners was based on a “gut feel”.

“Hindsight’s very easy to make different decisions,” Buttler told reporters.

“It was a call that probably didn’t come off today.”

David Warner and Travis Head continued their rampage when speedster Mark Wood entered the attack in the fourth over, with the slow deck nullifying the Englishman’s extra pace. With the power of hindsight, crafty left-armed quick Reece Topley would have been more effective on the dry surface.

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The Australian openers had blasted 70 runs from 29 deliveries before England’s seamers adapted to the conditions and started bowling cutters and slower balls. Jofra Archer knocked over Head in the sixth over with a superb off-cutter that cannoned into the stumps, but the damage had already been done.

Frustrations boiled over in the middle, with heads dropping and hands firmly on hips. Leg-spinner Adil Rashid failed to hide his frustration after a sloppy piece of fielding from Archer, while England’s slow over-rate gave Australia one less outfielder to contend with in the final over.

During the run chase, Buttler threw his wicket away by top-edging a needless reverse sweep towards backward point before England’s middle order failed to exploit the crosswinds and short boundary. Meanwhile, Jonny Bairstow’s middling form has given the national selectors plenty to ponder over the coming days.

The squad appears undercooked and low on confidence, while Buttler and coach Matthew Mott will be under pressure to keep their roles if England fails to qualify for the Super Eights.

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Barring a monumental upset, England will finish with five points if they defeat Oman and Namibia in Antigua next week – but that may not be enough to progress beyond the group stage.

The nation’s fate lies with Scotland, who could also finish on five points if they defeat Oman on Monday morning AEST, at which point the team with superior net run rate would qualify for the Super Eights.

However, should other matches in Group B transpire as expected, an intriguing scenario arises ahead of Scotland’s contest against Australia, which occurs after England’s final game against Namibia.

Australia could knock England out of the tournament by handing Scotland victory or winning by a specific margin, allowing the Scots to surpass their British rival’s net run rate.

Steve Waugh’s Australians attempted a similar ploy during the 1999 World Cup in England, taking nearly 41 overs to chase down a modest 111-run target against the West Indies in hopes of knocking New Zealand out of the tournament.

The Black Caps had beaten Australia earlier in the group stage, and boosting the West Indies’ net run rate reduced New Zealand’s chances of featuring in the Super Sixes.

“I don’t know about it being moral, but it was in the rules,” Waugh declared during the post-game media conference.

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Despite having their backs against the wall, England has proven themselves more than capable of winning ICC tournaments after a slow start.

After suffering heavy defeats against Australia and Sri Lanka in 2019, England won four consecutive matches to lift its maiden ODI title, while the nation’s T20 triumph in 2022 included a rain-affected loss to Ireland during the group stage.

“The situation we find ourselves in is the situation we find ourselves in,” Buttler continued.

“We’ve got to be confident, keep our heads up and look forward to the next one.

“We’ll keep puffing our chest out and play some really good cricket, which we know we’re capable of.

“Yes, we were outplayed by Australia. They fully deserved it and I think there’s a little bit of things we want to tidy up.”

England will next face Oman at Antigua’s Sir Vivian Richards Stadium on Friday morning, with the first ball scheduled for 5am AEST.