The Aussie skipper says the team is treating the Black Caps, who are on a 33-month unbeaten Test run, as any other series.
With one game remaining in Group A, Australia faced their traditional rivals in a must-win match. Could the Aussies win when it mattered? Or would their old foe, rain, triumph again?
Here are the ratings for the England versus Australia Champions Trophy game.
Australia found themselves in a precarious position going into this final match of their group thanks to their decision not to have completed a single game in the tournament to date.
Washouts against New Zealand and Bangladesh saw them sitting on two points, and their decision to select a thunderstorm in their squad was now seen by many as a mistake.
By contrast England had already qualified for the semi-finals, comfortably beating both New Zealand and Bangladesh in their two games. Everything about England’s ODI unit is so professional these days, right down to playing their matches on days when it wouldn’t be washed out.
As a result, Australia found themselves in a must-win match, contrasting with England’s would-really-rather-quite-like-to-win match. Would that make the difference?
The dream comedy result from earlier in the week, after Australia’s second wash-out and England’s defeat of New Zealand, was to have the remaining two games in the group both rained away so that Australia could go through to the semi-finals without playing a single completed game.
This plan was scuppered when Bangladesh turned the tables on New Zealand, recovering twice in their game to post an outstanding victory. First they somehow restricted New Zealand to a mere 8/265 from their 50 overs after the Black Caps had been cruising at 3/201 in the 39th over. Then, when the New Zealand bowlers had Bangladesh 3/12 and 4/33, Shakib al Hasan and Mahmudallah put on a record 224-run partnership, scoring twin centuries to ensure a Bangladesh victory.
It was the kind of unexpected run chase that in retrospect you really wish you hadn’t slept through. It’s not often New Zealand are cast as the cricketing villains, but here they were, and they got their comeuppance.
The next best comedy result, then, was for Australia to miss out on the semi-finals due to three wash-outs. But, alas, they couldn’t even manage that.
Australia batted first, looking to set the kind of target that would keep England’s powerful batting line-up at bay. After the first over they were 0/0, with a projected total of 0/0 (or 0/0 for everybody else in the world). Common sense suggested this was too low, so Aaron Finch and Dave Warner began to accelerate.
The pair put on 40 for the first wicket in 7.2 overs. Then Steve Smith and Aaron Finch put on 96 more to have Australia 1/136 after 22.5. At this stage Australia were cruising, but every time they attempted to accelerate England would take another wicket. They lost Finch on 136, Moises Henriques on 161, Smith on 181 and Glenn Maxwell on 239.
Predictably the Maxwell wicket was the turning point, with Jason Roy taking a juggling six-preventing catch on the boundary. The third umpire needed to look at the Roy catch several times to ensure his foot hadn’t touched the rope before deciding that Maxwell had to go.
Disappointing for fans of barely concealed antagonism that Maxwell and Matthew Wade didn’t get a chance to bat together. If the third umpire cared about that at all, he’d have given Travis Head out caught instead.
Instead Head stuck around to make 71 not out as the tail collapsed around him, losing 5/15 and ending on 9/277.
As Rudyard Kipling once said: If you can keep your Travis Head, when all about you are losing theirs, you’ll still have an inadequate total, my son.
King Benjamin I
The total didn’t look inadequate, however, when England lost three quick wickets. First to go of course was the out-of-form Roy, thereby disproving the age-old adage ‘when Roy catches well, he bats well’. He went on the second ball and wasted a review in the process. Alex Hales disappeared for a duck and Joe Root was caught behind for 15 when rain stopped play with England 3/35 after six overs.
At this point Australia’s main problem seemed to be conjuring up the minimum 20 overs they needed to bowl to constitute a match.
But when play resumed this rapidly became a secondary problem as Ben Stokes and Eoin Morgan shamelessly copied the Bangladesh playbook, putting on a 159-run partnership to put England well ahead of the Duckworth-Lewis Stern par score.
Morgan was eventually run out by Adam Zampa, but Stokes made an unbeaten century. Such was the exquisite nature of Stokes’ timing in his innings that he brought up his ton with a boundary the ball before the two sides left the field due to rain.
With no further play available, Stokes was then named man of the match and the King of Bangladesh.
All hail, King Benjamin I.
Still, Australia have copped a lot of criticism over the years for their questionable sportsmanship. And while they dabbled here in cruelly denying the Bangladesh side their first ever semi-final spot in an ICC tournament, eventually more sporting heads prevailed.
Great work from the batsmen from Henriques down (excluding Head) for setting such a limited target for England to chase. And impressive stuff from the Australian bowlers to spend the rain delay thinking about what was moral and right and good and returning to bowl unfettered rubbish.
A loss to Australia is a win for Bangladesh and a win for world cricket. Kudos to Smith and his men for making it happen.
Ugly Aussies no more!