Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - Dominant England send out a loud statement of intent. The manner of England's victory was noteworthy
The manner of England's victory was noteworthy
Before this game, Eoin Morgan said he thought Australia were the joint second favourites, along with his own England team, to win the T20 WC. Morgan doesn't get many things wrong when it comes to reading the cricketing tea leaves but on the evidence of his side's dominant, brutal takedown of Australia in Dubai on Saturday evening, his pre-match prediction looked well wide of the mark. England's eight-wicket victory, delivered with 50 balls to spare, proved that they are in a totally different T20 class to the men from down under.
Australia, it should not be forgotten, came into this match unbeaten, having seen off South Africa in a tight opening contest and then defeated Sri Lanka in their second game with more authority and even a little swagger. That was the context of Morgan's comments and perhaps the reason for them. He no doubt had in mind, too, that a team with the individual T20 brilliance of Mitchell Starc, Glen Maxwell and David Warner should never be taken lightly.
But whatever Australia's results in the tournament to date, whatever the quality of the individuals in their squad, England took no notice. They bullied Australia from the very start of the game. They played with more aggression and more intent throughout. They were smarter and executed their plans far better. They made big plays, like Chris Woakes' superb catch to remove Steve Smith, at crucial times. England played with a bravery that has been the hallmark of their limited overs team for six years while Australia barely looked out from behind the sofa.
This performance did not just seal England's third win and bring them another two points. The scale of victory delivered a message to the rest of the teams in this tournament as well. England are here to play, alright.
It was a victory built on the foundations of yet another superb bowling display in the Powerplay. At the end of six overs, Australia were 21 for 3 and already clinging on by their fingertips. The wicket takers were Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan who combined for five of the first six overs. Moeen Ali, who had bowled three of the Powerplay overs against both West Indies and Bangladesh, did not bowl at all showing the sort of tactical flexibility that Morgan and England's analyst, Nathan Leamon, have no problem employing. Aaron Finch, Australia's captain, destroys off-spin in T20 cricket so Moeen was wisely kept back. Adil Rashid, who can turn the ball away from the right hander, bowled the first over instead.
From the second over, Woakes and Jordan got to work. Woakes removed Warner with his second ball. Next over, Jordan removed Smith with his first delivery. The following over, Woakes was in on the act again, pinning Maxwell LBW. The fifth and sixth overs were wicketless but cost just six runs in total. It was relentless. There was a little movement – the ball to Warner shaped away from him – and the odd wider delivery – Smith was dismissed by one of them – but the basis of the two fast-bowlers' success was bowling straight and back of a length, ball after ball. There was hardly anything full or wide for Australia's batters to free their arms. England's plan was clear. Their execution was superb.
Last year, Morgan often spoke about how his side were looking for more Powerplay wickets. In South Africa at the start of 2020, England took one Powerplay wicket in three matches and conceded more than ten runs an over in that phase. It was an area of weakness. So far in this tournament, it has been a strength. England have taken ten wickets in their 18 Powerplay overs, asserting their dominance almost immediately on all three matches. Australia certainly never recovered from that part of the game.
Once the Powerplay was done, England bowled spin for seven of the next eight overs, exploiting the weakness of Australia's middle order against slow bowling. But it was Liam Livingstone who partnered Rashid rather than Moeen as Finch was still at the crease. Livingstone's mixture of leg-spin and off-spin meant he was a better match-up, able to turn the ball away from Australia's captain.
It was another plan that worked. The Lancastrian conceded just 15 runs off his four overs, picking up the wicket of Matthew Wade, while Rashid dismissed Marcus Stoinis LBW with a googly, as he did in the 2019 World Cup semi-final, and gave up just 19 runs from his own four overs. Australia's lack of intent against Livingstone, in particular, was a surprise but England exploited the spin weakness of their opponents expertly, keeping the pressure on that Woakes and Jordan had built.
Some lower-order hitting and a few wayward deliveries from Tymal Mills allowed Australia to get up to 125. That perhaps looked a tricky little total, particularly if Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins could find the same movement as England's seamers managed with the new ball. A different team, one with less aggression running through its veins, may have tried to see off those first few overs. That's what Australia's top order had tried to do. But this England team believe to their very core that attack is the best form of defence.
And so Roy danced down the wicket to Hazlewood's first ball and swatted him for four. Next over, Cummins bowled a length ball that was smashed over midwicket for six. Jos Buttler was soon in on the act, whacking Ashton Agar over the boundary. In between the boundaries, it felt like Roy and Buttler were playing a game of hit and run. They took singles even when the ball went straight to men in the ring. They scampered twos to the boundary. It was relentless. The sixth over, bowled by Starc, cost Australia 18. Buttler creamed two huge sixes – the second measured 95 metres – and England had 66 on the board for no loss. The game was over as a contest. Done. Dusted.
There were still runs to get though. England could have knocked the ball round and cruised to the target. But it appeared, as it had since the first over, like they wanted to make a statement. That they wanted to dismantle Australia. Roy was dismissed in the seventh over but Buttler kept his foot to the floor. His half-century came from just 25 deliveries, sealed with a 102 metre six. Buttler may be a softly spoken man, with the good looks and winning smile, but his unique combination of effortless power and precision placement can be utterly destructive.
There was a time when English one-day batting was rigid and robotic. Buttler is the antithesis of that. Nimble and reactive, he moves around the crease often – he moved back a number of times to swat Starc off the back foot and walked across to clip Cummins to leg – while his wrists are as supple as any of the best subcontinental players of years gone by. It allows him to score in strange areas from deliveries that, by rights, shouldn't be taken for runs.
There was one such example in the fifth over. Hazlewood bowled a pinpoint accurate yorker, a fantastic delivery that pitched right on the creaseline. But Buttler moved his front foot out of the way, let the ball come to him and opened his wrists to somehow squeeze the ball out to the cover boundary for three. Forget the boundaries and sixes, that was the shot of his innings. Few other batters in the world could have played that shot.
Even until the very last, England were on the attack. Jonny Bairstow hit his first two balls for six and hit the winning runs in the 12th over. It finished off one of the most complete performances Morgan's England have ever delivered. Australia came into the game full of confidence but at the end of it, all they were left with was the reality of knowing how far behind they really are in T20 cricket. After all, this was not just a victory for England. This was a demolition.
It was also a real statement of intent for the tournament ahead.