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MATCH REPORT: Buttler blitzkrieg sees England hand Australia 'an absolute hiding'

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30th October, 2021
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The last time Australia took on England in a world tournament, they were dispatched in clinical fashion by a superior outfit with bat and ball in the 2019 ODI World Cup semi-final.

27 months on, and only the format has changed, Aaron Finch’s team yet again on the end of an 8-wicket hammering with 50 balls to spare as England continued their white-hot start to the T20 World Cup in Dubai.

Chief destroyer to begin with was Chris Woakes, his rampage with the ball – and in the field – in the PowerPlay effectively killing the match as a contest by the sixth over, and snaring some early psychological points on the Australian batters ahead of this summer’s Ashes.

Then, just as in 2019, there was no mercy with the bat either. A masterclass from Jos Buttler, blasting the bowlers to all parts for 71 runs off just 32 balls, made the lightest of work of a target of 125. The end result was Australia’s greatest ever T20I defeat in terms of balls remaining, while only once have they ever been beaten by greater than the eight wickets that remained for England.

The heavy defeat has put Australia’s hopes of progressing to the World Cup semi-finals in jeopardy. Their net run rate has already fallen from 0.727 to -0.627, seeing them drop to third in Group A behind South Africa. They now will likely either have to beat both Bangladesh and the West Indies to join England in the final four, or win one and hope the Poms can inflict a similar beatdown on the Proteas in the final group stage match.

“They walloped the West Indies, they pretty much walloped Bangladesh, and I tell you what: they’ve given the old enemy an absolute hiding here,” England great and former Test captain Nasser Hussain crowed on commentary duties of his nation’s performance.

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“And remember, Australia were two from two going into this game! They look a bit shellshocked.”

>> Australia vs England: as it happened

With a potent mix of Test match bowling lengths and deadly accuracy, Woakes began by removing David Warner with his first ball of the match for one; the manner of the dismissal, following the angle across the left-hander to present a tame edge, starting the eerie parallels to that semi-final at Edgbaston.

Then, as if to rub salt into the wound, Woakes would take an outlandish one-handed catch backpedaling at mid-on to account for Ashes tormentor Steve Smith. When he pinned Glenn Maxwell in front to leave Australia in tatters at 3/15 – just one extra run than their score three down two years ago – the result seemed wrapped up already.

An expensive final over diluted the 32-year old’s figures, but 2/7 in his first three overs was the game-deciding spell. Incredibly, bowling partner Chris Jordan would be named Player of the Match for his 3/17, including that of Smith… but nobody watching was left in any doubt who the main threat was.

Australia’s woes were compounded by their decision to bring in spin bowling all-rounder Ashton Agar for Mitchell Marsh; perhaps spooked by the punishment Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis took against Sri Lanka, it soon became clear the extra batting option would have been handier. Also against them was England winning the toss, forcing the Aussies to bat first for the first time this tournament.

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3/21 after the PowerPlay was bad enough; losing Stoinis for a duck the first ball after it had things looking especially dire. Trapped in front after failing to pick an Adil Rashid googly, the all-rounder provided yet another mirror image of the ODI World Cup, his dismissal identical down to the zero next to his name.

Only Aaron Finch passed single figures among Australia’s top five, the captain’s painstaking 49-ball 44 at least ensuring a rout like England inflicted on the West Indies was averted, but far from the fluency he showed against Sri Lanka.

So stellar was England’s bowling effort that off-spinner Moeen Ali, conceding just five runs an over across their first two games with the new ball, wasn’t even required. The leg-breaks of Rashid and Liam Livingstone were more than enough, the latter’s consistency frustrating Matthew Wade into holing out to open up the tail, and proving the fault in Shane Warne’s Twitter insistence that he must be targeted.

Not for the first time in recent years, it fell to the bowlers to atone for the sins of the batters, Agar landing back-to-back sixes off Woakes in the 17th over for Australia’s first maximums of the night. Along with a late onslaught from Pat Cummins, hitting his first two balls for six off Tymal Mills, the blows would at least see them past their record-lowest T20I total of 108 for a completed innings.

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Chris Woakes celebrates the wicket of Glenn Maxwell.

Chris Woakes celebrates the wicket of Glenn Maxwell at the T20 World Cup. (Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images)

But 125 was never going to be enough against an England batting order armed to the teeth with power hitters, who were every inch as dominant as they were in England two years ago. Opening the batting, Buttler and Jason Roy saw England boss the same PowerPlay period in which Woakes had strangled the Aussies. The pair peppered the stands to see the total swell to 66 runs after six overs, the highest of the World Cup for that period.

Where it was Roy who was the chief destroyer on that fateful day in 2019, this time it was Buttler’s turn. Five sixes, including a towering 102m strike off Adam Zampa, were the high point of, if not the biggest score of the tournament to date, then unquestionably the most dominant.

Commentating on the match, former Australian cricketer Shane Watson, arguably the country’s greatest ever T20 cricketer, blamed the performance on the team’s lack of cohesion. Before this tournament, fast-bowling trio Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood had seldom played T20Is for Australia in recent years, while key batters Warner and Smith skipped both the team’s limited-overs tours of the West Indies and Bangladesh earlier this year.

“This team, and the combinations, don’t play together consistently at all… and [they] expect to be able to turn things on against world-class teams?” Watson lamented.

“I’ve been asking [why] for the last 10-12 years. It doesn’t make sense. The only way you’re going to play really well as a team is playing together, like England have been doing, like India do.

“When you come up against a team that have got every base covered like England, that’s when teams do get exposed. Australia has been very exposed tonight.”

Not even Zampa, who strangled the life out of Sri Lanka, was spared from the onslaught, despite removing Roy LBW with his second delivery. Twin maximums from Buttler, and two more from Jonny Bairstow to close the chase, consigned the leg-spinner to 1/37 from just three overs – more than he’d conceded across his two previous World Cup matches combined.

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With Starc (0/37 off 3) and Cummins (0/14 off his only over) just as expensive, there was nobody to stop England waltzing to a commanding win with nearly eight full overs to spare, Buttler undefeated on 71 at the end.

Such was England’s dominance that even Watson could only praise the old enemy. “As an Aussie cricket lover and fan, I am envious of the T20 cricket that England are playing right now,” he said on commentary.

“This has just been so impressive to watch. It has been immaculate in every department – the fast bowling, the spinners, all executing so well. The batting tonight has put Australia right under pressure from ball one.”

The win sees England remain alongside Pakistan as one of two undefeated teams remaining in the tournament. On the evidence of their dominance here, it’s hard to go past them as favourites to add to their ODI world crown.

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Australia wore black armbands to honour cricket greats Alan Davidson and Ashley Mallett, who passed away earlier in the week.

Australia 125 all out (20 overs, Finch 44, Jordan 3/17, Woakes 2/23) defeated by England 2/126 (11.4 overs, Buttler 71*, Agar 1/15) by 8 wickets with 50 balls remaining.

>> Check out Australia’s full T20 World Cup fixture

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