Ireland’s win over England after Australia’s defeat to New Zealand and the abandonment of Afghanistan’s clash with the Black Caps has left the Super League Group 1 wide open in the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup.
That makes Friday’s key clash between defending champions Australia and their arch-rivals England at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) even more crucial for both teams as they need to win this match to brighten their chances of making it to the knockout stage.
England skipper Jos Buttler agreed that his team’s defeat to Ireland has opened up the Group.
“Yeah, the group is wide open. There are plenty of things that could happen, whether it’s due to weather or teams beating each other. But we have to dust ourselves down and get back to playing better cricket,” Buttler said during a post-match press conference after his team’s debacle against Ireland on Wednesday.
A dominant Ireland sprung a huge upset with a five-wicket victory over 2010 champions England by five runs via the DLS method in a Group 1 match in the Super 12 stage at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
After Ireland captain Andrew Balbirnie (62 off 47 balls) and Lorcan Tucker (34 off 27 balls) strung an 82-run stand to help the side post a competitive 157 all out in 19.2 overs, pacer Joshua Little took out Jos Buttler and Alex Hales to reduce England to 24/2 in four overs, setting the base for a famous victory as England could manage only 105/5 in 14.3 overs.
After that rain arrived and gave Ireland their first two points in Super 12, leaving Group 1 wide open. It also makes England’s next match, against arch-rivals Australia, a must-win affair in order to remain alive in the race for a spot in the semifinals.
“Yeah, it is open. I think the teams beating each other with the weather around, we don’t know exactly how things are going to pan out. Again, that just makes it probably more disappointing with today actually, the fact that we had everything in our favour in terms of winning the toss. So we knew exactly what was required of us. To not take advantage of that certainly hurts,” Buttler said.
Buttler agreed that Wednesday’s results have made Friday’s match between England and Australia bigger than it already was, turning it into a virtual eliminator where the loser is probably out of the tournament.
“Yeah, of course. That’s what World Cup cricket is about. Of course, we wanted to be going into that game having won 2 games from 2, but at some point in this tournament, the way it’s set up, you’re in must-win games the majority of the time. Of course, Friday is already a big occasion playing Australia at the MCG, and it takes on that extra bit now with both teams having lost one game,” said Buttler.
Buttler said the defeat against Ireland were “hurting” for his team and could further damage their chances if they fail to pull themselves up against Australia.
“We’ve made a mistake here and that’s put even more pressure on us in a tough group,” Buttler lamented. “If you needed a game to get up for, then England-Australia at the MCG is certainly one of those.”
After Wednesday’s results, New Zealand lead Group 1 with three points from a win and a no result. Sri Lanka, England, Ireland and Australia are all on two points but are placed in this order from second to fifth. Sri Lanka are second with a higher Net Run Rate of 0.45 while England (0.239), Ireland (-1.169) and Australia (-1.555) are placed in this order.
This leaves the team that loses in Friday’s England and Australia clash in a further precarious position unless there are further no-results or surprises like Sri Lanka and Ireland winning all their remaining matches.
It has put Australia’s fate back in their hands though Aaron Finch’s side will only breathe easily after winning Friday’s clash with a big margin to also improve their NRR.
However, there is still one unknown factor in the mix — the weather. Australia is in the midst of a La Nina event and more washouts or shortened games are a certainty, which could add more intrigue to the already boiling pot.
With the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method coming into play in more matches, it only increases the chances of less-fancied sides pulling off upsets.
Australia and England can’t take things for granted in this situation and neither can New Zealand and Sri Lanka, even though they seem in a good position as of now.