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T20 World Cup: England left with no room for error in title defence after Barbados blemishes against Australia


England are in a precarious position at the T20 World Cup after a washout against Scotland in Barbados was followed by a defeat to a clinical Australia at the same venue.

Here are the talking points from Saturday’s loss in Bridgetown, including team selection, errors in the powerplay, and just how much strife the defending champions are really in…

Score summary – Australia vs England

Australia 201-7 from 20 overs: David Warner (39 off 16), Mitchell Marsh (35 off 25); Chris Jordan (2-44), Liam Livingstone (1-15)

England 165-6 from 20 overs: Jos Buttler (42 off 28 balls), Phil Salt (37 off 23); Pat Cummins (2-23), Adam Zampa (2-28)

England need to win and hope as Super 8s spot under threat

Qualifying for the Super 8s is no longer in England’s hands.

Victories over Oman and Namibia in their last two Group B fixtures in Antigua may be enough if they can win heavily, with it a distinct possibility that they end up level on five points with Scotland and that qualification comes down to net run-rate.

Image:
Group B table with everyone having played twice

However, should Scotland win their remaining two games, against Oman on Sunday and Australia a week later, and Australia see off Namibia in between, England would be toast, unable to overhaul either their Ashes rivals or their nearest neighbours.

Jos Buttler’s men suffered a group-stage exit as they set about defending the 50-over World Cup in India last autumn and they are now scrambling to avoid a similar fate in the 20-over jamboree. There is no room for error.

England’s T20 World Cup fixtures

  • vs Scotland (Barbados) – Tuesday June 4 – Match abandoned
  • vs Australia (Barbados) – Saturday June 8 – lost by 36 runs
  • vs Oman (Antigua) – Thursday June 13 (8pm)
  • vs Namibia (Antigua) – Saturday June 15 (6pm)

England lost to Ireland in the previous T20 World Cup in 2022 and went on to win the event so all hope is not lost. “Sometimes we are better when our backs are against the wall so it might suit us,” said all-rounder Moeen Ali. Fans will be hoping he is right.

Defending champions punished in the powerplay

Pinpointing exactly where England lost the game against Australia and you are immediately drawn to their opponents’ first five overs.

Australia's David Warner bats during a T20 international against New Zealand (Associated Press)
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Australia’s David Warner cracked 39 off 16 balls against England

David Warner (39 off 16) and Travis Head (35 off 18) pummelled 70 runs in that time with Mark Wood’s fast deliveries and part-time spinner Will Jacks’ off-breaks consistently carted for six over the short leg-side boundary. The second over bowled by Jacks – which followed a three-run opening over from Moeen – went for 22, the fourth sent down by Wood suffered the same fate.

Sky Sports Cricket’s Nasser Hussain said: “Australia outclassed England, it was a complete team performance. A total of 201 was too many on that pitch, even with that short boundary.

“The decision to bowl Jacks backfired but I didn’t like how they were too slow to go to their slower balls and cutters. I saw them obsessed by blowing away opposition with pace and I think it was a pace-off pitch and they didn’t adapt quickly enough.”

Mark Wood (Associated Press)
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Mark Wood’s first over against Australia, the fourth of the match, was clattered for 22

Hussain’s fellow pundit Michael Atherton added: “I thought the decision to bowl Jacks was odd on a couple of counts, as England have gone with pace in their line-up with Wood and Archer and also because Jacks is pretty inexperienced and the type of off-spinner that is quite floaty. It could have paid off against the lefties but it was a high-risk strategy and one that cost 22 runs.”

Moeen said: “We adapted eventually but we were a bit behind, it was almost an over late, or a couple of balls late, and we were always conceding a boundary at the start and end of the over and that set us back. I think a lack of discipline a little bit.”

Should England have picked Topley?

Both Atherton and Hussain said before the Australia match that they would have picked towering left-arm seam bowler Reece Topley, what with his ability to bowl cutters into the pitch from a great height, and also swing the new ball.

His record against left-handers is also stellar.

You couldn’t help but think England had made an error by leaving him on the sidelines as first his team-mates were tonked in the powerplay and then Australia seamers Marcus Stoinis, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood bowled pace-off balls to restrict England.

England's Reece Topley..prepares prepares for a delivery against West Indies during the fourth T20 cricket match at Brian Lara Stadium in Tarouba, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
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Did England miss Reece Topley against Australia?

Hussain continued: “Topley is a better option for Barbados and these conditions than quicker, skiddier bowlers like Wood. If I am batting here I want pace on the ball not pace off.

“When Stoinis, Cummins and Hazlewood rolled their fingers down the side of the ball in the England innings the batters couldn’t get it away.”

Treble hunting Australia show their class

Australia, who came into the contest having lost six of their last seven completed T20Is against England, are two thirds of the way to holding three ICC trophies simultaneously, after scooping the World Test Championship and 50-over World Cup titles in 2023.

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Adam Zampa checked England’s run chase with the wickets of Jos Buttler and Phil Salt after a 73-run stand in seven overs

The captain may be different in the T20 World Cup – Mitchell Marsh taking the reins from Pat Cummins – but the ruthless efficiency in tournaments remains, with the aforementioned seamers doing their bit after leg-spinner Adam Zampa had snapped a 73-run opening partnership between Buttler and Phil Salt.

Warner and Head were also quick to work out where to attack England with the bat, starting with the collaring Jacks was given. “Australia showed why they are feared as a tournament team,” added Atherton.

It would be no surprise at all if they were back in Barbados for the final on June 29. For England to get there, though, there is a hell of a lot of work to do.

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