Dubai: If it was Moeen Ali’s reckless shot that cost England the game against Sri Lanka in the previous encounter, the trend continues, in fact it has doubled. Poor shot selection by both skipper Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow proved the turning point for the hosts suffering a heartbreaking loss to traditional rivals Australia in the group contest at Lord’s.
England’s defeat is more of a loss in the mental battle than actually on the field. Lack of application and a clear game plan caused their downfall, when a common-sense approach and patience were the need of the hour. On the other hand, the Australians are plugging their holes, especially in their bowling department.
They bolstered the attack by picking left-arm pacer Jason Behrendorff, who vindicated his selection with a five-wicket haul in his second World Cup game, and veteran off-spinner Nathan Lyon.
Australian captain Aaron Finch excelled again with another century and his astute captaincy, making the bowling changes to perfection in breaking partnerships and his field placings.
Chasing a stiff target, England never had the momentum and lost two quick wickets to the double left-arm Australian pace attack of Behrendorff and Mitchell Starc.
Coming in at 15 for two, a lot depended on Morgan to arrest the slide, but the England skipper took the bait and pulled Starc straight into the hands of Pat Cummins. Bairstow too followed the path showed by his captain, pulling Behrendorff from outside the off stump to be caught again by Cummins.
This put England on the backfoot and lot depended on Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler to pull them out of trouble and guide them home.
After smelling blood and gaining the upperhand, the Australians seldom release their grip, on the contrary tighten the screws to maintain the pressure. Their hunger to win was well illustrated by the stunning running catch Usman Khawaja took, again off a pull, to end Buttler’s innings, bringing the highest partnership of England’s innings to an end. It was increasingly getting difficult for Stokes, who fought gamely despite losing several partners.
Starc again proved that he is the go-to man for Finch as he unleashed a thunderbolt in the form of a yorker to end the threatening knock of Stokes, who trudged back to the pavilion knowing that his team’s chances are shattered, just like the stumps, after his dismissal.
The world No. 1 team, who were the favourites to win the tournament, are now in danger of not qualifying for the knockout semi-finals.
The double reversal in the last two matches have left them at eight points with two games, against India and New Zealand, to play. England’s last group game against New Zealand could be the virtual quarter-finals if the other contenders keep their winning momentum intact and extend their points tally.
The defending champions have raised their game a notch higher now, but a late innings collapse left them under the 300-run mark, at least 30 short.
However, when their pacers are running in hard to steamroller the opposition, Australians are on a march towards the title again.