If there were any doubts that England were not tested enough during their first two wins in the T20 World Cup campaign in the UAE before Saturday, Eoin Morgan’s men ensured they weren’t — even if the latest opponents were arch-rivals Australia.
A 360-degree performance, first with the ball and some flawless catching on the outfield, followed by a completely ruthless approach while chasing a below-par target of 126 saw them getting all over their opponents. The end came in only 11.4 overs with Joss Buttler playing the destroyer-in-chief, raking up an unbeaten 71 with five sixes and as many hits to the fence.
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Such was the degree of Buttler’s dominance that Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, the two other architects of England’s white ball dominance over a period of nearly five years, were reduced to bit parts. Yes, the toss does play its part in the evening matches in Dubai as the batting conditions become far easier later on, but Australia were never quite in the picture once they allowed a spot on Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan to make huge dents in their top order.
A clearer picture is now emerging in the so-called ‘Group of Death’ where England are firmly perched on top of the standings. After this big defeat, it will now be left between South Africa and Australia, both of whom are on two wins after three games — with the Proteas in second position courtesy of net run-rate — to vie for second place finish and a spot in the semi-finals.
After England’s performance, the question that could be uppermost on cricket fans’ minds would be how could any team stop their juggernaut? While their first match against the West Indies was an absolute cop-out, neither Bangladesh nor Australia could create the launch pad of putting a challenging score on the board and then put England’s experienced strokeplayers under pressure by trying to take the pace off the ball.
If the emphatic win against Sri Lanka was any indication the other day, it seemed that David Warner and Aaron Finch should be able to give a semblance of leadership to their innings. They were, however, in for a rude shock as Woakes turned up with a fabulous spell first up during which he removed Warner and Glenn Maxwell.
Warner was squared up by a Woakes delivery which shaped to be leaving him and was caught behind — a blow from which they never quite recovered. While it remains to be seen if such a humiliating loss could eventually hurt their campaign, the question remains about their brittle middle order and will it emerge again after such a dismal show.
Finch, who was the seventh man out with an uncharacteristically subdued 44, was left holding fort with only Matthew Wade and Ashton Agar showing fight — but it certainly won’t be enough against quality attacks of Pakistan, India or New Zealand.