For the first 28 minutes of the England-Australia T20I, it didn’t seem that cricket was being played. There were golf swings, some hit-the-ball-out-of-the-park contest, and a bit of ballad too. Jos Buttler’s hitting, or batting if you would like to call, was brutal. It was disdainful. It was calm. Who knows how many ‘f**k its’ came along the way, sworn at the leather! In those 28 minutes, the pep talk in the Australian huddle surviving on a ventilator all this while, slipped into coma, never to be revived. England: 83/0 in 7 overs.
Buttler, after the chances with Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow, too made a strong claim for an opening spot in the English T20 line-up, bringing up the fastest T20I fifty by an English player – in 22 balls. The first of his massive hits was handed to debutant Mitchell Swepson – straight down the ground. Not that the ground was too big, but none in the world could have contained it. The young leggie was bullied to 16 runs off his maiden international over. Kane Richardson, who came on on to bowl the next, was smoked for 23.
If Richardson’s start with the ball wasn’t good enough, he foiled it further by dropping a rampaging Jason Roy on 27 – dropping the easiest of chances at long off two overs later. To make the insult more pronounced, he was sent to fetch the ball from outside the boundary after the next delivery.
Such was the day for Australia, that Swepson had to resort to bowling half-trackers. And surprisingly, it turned out to be a secret weapon. Against the two openers, who were looking to whack away everything in their sight, they needed more power than usual to put the short-pitched balls away. They struggled for timing too before Buttler eventually holed out to D’Arcy Short at deep mid wicket.
Australia clawed their way back in a bit thereafter, with three wickets falling in quick succession. Roy missed out on a fifty, Eoin Morgan fell early. Nonetheless, Australia failed to keep the scoring rate down. The spin duo of Swepson and Ashton Agar did keep the proceedings relatively tight, but even they combined to concede 71 runs from their eight overs. Joe Root, especially, struggled to find the boundaries against the slower bowlers. But once the pacers were brought back into the attack, he also picked his scoring rate and combined with Alex Hales to forge a 72-run stand off 39 balls.
On the flat English wickets, the home-bred power-hitters have found a way to time and hit big with such immediacy to their arrival at the crease that even one of the finest all-round batsmen in world cricket – Root – seems a misfit, when the rest are in full flow. And Wednesday’s act was simply a showcase of this long-standing debate as to where does Root fit in. He compiled a 24-ball 35, not average by any stretch, and yet was left far behind from the striking of the rest. England handed Australia a 222-run target.
Yet again, neither the conditions nor the line-up gave any evidence that Australia wouldn’t pose a challenge. But such has been the deliverance of the visitors on this tour, that never in recent decades have they looked as innocuous in their threats. And their batting, barring Aaron Finch’s 41-ball 84, was a display of that.
D’Arcy Short failed yet again to show that he is more than an Australian bully. Travis Head, Marcus Stoinis and Alex Carey again stumbled against the spin duo of Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid. Nine overs down in the chase, Australia were tottering at 73 for 5.
Finch continued a valiant fight, smacking Moeen Ali for 19 in one over and 22 in his next. The required rate dropped from 16 to close to 13 with only six overs remaining. He lacked support, and even Ashton Agar who stood along with him, didn’t help matters by compiling a 23-ball 29. Finch’s solo act came to an end in the 16th over when Chris Jordan caught him at long off.
Andrew Tye hit a couple of sixes, but the big shots had come too late to disturb the results or even threaten England. Jordan returned for his second spell, bagged two wickets in two balls and paved way for Australia’s finish. The visitors did score 193 but only played a losing chase all along – with the required rate creeping up and wickets falling. They lost the game by 28 runs.
Another toss won, another match lost. If there was any pleasant news that came Australia’s way, it was that their England summer was over.
Brief Scores: England 221/5 in 20 overs (Jos Buttler 61, Alex Hales 49; Mitchell Swepson 2-37, Marcus Stoinis 1-9) beat Australia 193 in 19.4 overs (Aaron Finch 84, Ashton Agar 29; Adil Rashid 3-27, Chris Jordan 3-42) by 28 runs.
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