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England’s T20 World Cup hopes already under threat after Australia defeat

Australia (201-7) beat England (165-6) by 36 runs

KENSINGTON OVAL — England’s fate in this T20 World Cup is now out of their hands after the defending collapsed to a damaging 36-run defeat by Australia in Barbados.

A shambolic bowling performance allowed Australia to become the first team to pass 200 in what has been a low-scoring tournament, leaving the batting line-up with a mountain to climb.

Despite getting off to an encouraging start in their chase of 202, it always seemed inevitable England would be made to pay for a fielding display as bad as anything served up during the horrendous 50-over World Cup implosion in India last autumn.

This result is not terminal for England – they can still qualify for the Super Eight stage if they beat Oman and Namibia in their final two Group B matches.

But will likely need to better Scotland’s net run rate to do so. Yet if Scotland beat Oman in their penultimate game on Sunday and shock Australia, or there’s a washout in that group finale, then England would be out even if they win both their final games in Antigua next week.

The fact we are even contemplating a first-round exit in a tournament format loaded in the big teams’ favour is a damning indictment on the leadership of captain Jos Buttler and coach Matthew Mott. They both need this tournament to turn around quickly otherwise they will be out of a job.

England knew this game might not be tournament-defining yet it was one where a victory would supercharge their progression to the Super Eights. Anything less and what appeared a very kind first-round group would become rather more treacherous, namely because of the washout against Scotland in their opening game at this ground five days earlier.

Australia had started with a drama-free win against Oman, but the elephant in the room for England was that 50-over World Cup implosion in India. After losing the opener to New Zealand and then winning their next game against Bangladesh, they were sent into a tailspin by a defeat by Afghanistan in Delhi.

It was the first of five losses in succession for the defending champions.

Sensitivities over that shambolic tournament led to Buttler’s tetchy media interactions at the start of the week. Something special was needed here to banish the ghosts of that campaign.

A statement performance against their Ashes rivals was exactly what was needed. It didn’t happen.

England at least started well, winning the toss and deciding to bowl first after naming an unchanged XI. Moeen Ali then only conceded three after he was given the task of opening the bowling.

But things went rapidly downhill after Buttler tossed the ball to Will Jacks second over, the Surrey man’s occasional spin cannon fodder for David Warner and Travis Head, who helped themselves to 22 from his six deliveries.

Things unravelled so badly that just 29 balls into the innings, Australia had already reached 70.

Moeen, though, bowled Warner with the last ball of the fifth over to stem the bleeding and Jofra Archer followed up with an excellent sixth that saw him rearrange Head’s stumps and concede just four runs.

It was a dream start for Australia, but a nightmare for Buttler’s team as the stench of calamity that had permeated their doomed 50-over campaign in India last autumn began to descend on the Kensington Oval.

It didn’t get much better as Marsh continued the charge, hitting one Rashid delivery in the ninth over onto the roof of the Greenidge & Haynes Stand and smashing a solar panel. Yes, England were so bad they were harming the environment.

By the halfway stage of the innings Australia had raced to 102 for two. They’d add another 99 in the second half, with England’s bowlers powerless to stop their opponents becoming only the third side to breach 200 in a T20 international at this ground.

One moment which summed up England’s sloppiness in the field came in the 18th over when Matthew Wade reverse swept Rashid and Bairstow and Archer, at short third man left the pursuit of the ball to each other as it ran away for four.

Archer was England’s only real performer with the ball, going for just seven runs an over, the only one who bowled his full complement of four with an economy under 10.

In all, Australia plundered 13 sixes, with seven of those coming between Head and Warner early on.

It was brutal stuff and left England’s power-packed batting line-up needing to hit the ground like an express train in their first effort of this tournament.

Phil Salt, who spent part of his childhood in Barbados, and Buttler certainly put Australia’s attack under serious pressure as they hit 73 off the first seven overs of the chase.

But Salt fell for 37 in the eighth when he was bowled by Adam Zampa’s first ball of the match. Buttler was a goner in the 10th when he was caught trying to reverse sweep Zampa one ball after clubbing the leggie for six over long off.

Set on 42 from 28, losing their captain was a blow for England. Things got worse in the 11th over when Jacks fell for a run-a-ball 10, caught trying to hit Marcus Stoinis into the wind.

It brought Moeen to the crease alongside Jonny Bairstow with England needing 106 to win from 55 balls.

It was a partnership that stalled, with Bairstow in particular struggling to time the ball. But three sixes from Moeen in a 14th over bowled by Glenn Maxwell that went for 20 left England needing 78 from 36 balls.

The chase arguably got a boost when Bairstow was replaced at the crease by Harry Brook after the former holed out to Josh Hazlewood in the 15th over having scored just seven off 13 balls.

But it never really recovered as England’s fate was sealed long before the final over was bowled.

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