T20 World Cup: England's "gut call" goes awry against Australia | Crickit
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T20 World Cup: England's "gut call" goes awry against Australia

By, Mumbai
Jun 09, 2024 12:24 PM IST

Skipper Buttler blamed bringing on Will Jacks for the second over after it went for 22 runs

With the margins so fine in T20 cricket, all it takes is one mistake for the momentum to shift decidedly.

Australia's Adam Zampa celebrates after taking a wicket.(PTI)
Australia's Adam Zampa celebrates after taking a wicket.(PTI)

It could be a set batter throwing away the wicket, a dropped catch, or even something as simple as a throw to the wrong end. For England, in their Group B match against Australia at the Kensington Oval, Barbados on Saturday, it was an incorrect “gut call” by skipper Jos Buttler that sent the defending champions hurtling to a 36-run defeat.

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It was a marquee clash between two traditional rivals. With England winning the previous edition of the T20 World Cup and Australia the one before that, the arch-rivals were expected to light up a tournament that’s been hampered by a string of low-scoring, one-sided contests.

And they did that, for the most part. Australia posted 201/7 – the first 200-plus total of this edition – and England began the chase strongly, only to lose steam in a curious fashion to finish on 165/6.

The blunder, though, happened early in the clash as Buttler won the toss and decided to give the second over to Will Jacks. The off-spinner and top-order batter, who had bowled just nine overs in eight games at an economy-rate of 11.11 for RCB in IPL 2024, was up against two of the most devastating openers in David Warner and Travis Head. And to no one’s surprise, things didn’t turn out well.

Jacks was taken for 22 runs by the two left-handers and wasn’t called to bowl a second over. On a pitch that offered considerable variable bounce as the match progressed, this push at the start set Australia on their way. They got to 74/2 – their highest-ever powerplay total in T20 World Cups – and set England a daunting target in the end.

After Warner (39 off 16) and Head’s (34 off 18) assault initially, skipper Mitchell Marsh (35 off 25) and Glenn Maxwell (28 off 25) weren’t at their fluent best. But the in-form Marcus Stoinis (30 off 17) and ‘keeper-batter Matthew Wade (17* off 10) brought the scoring rate back up.

"It was a gut call to go with Jacksy," said Buttler after the game. "Hindsight's very easy, to make different decisions. We talked a lot in the build-up about potentially bowling two overs of spin straightaway against the two left-handers. He’s a very good option with his off-spin. He's done that role well in IPL and I made a gut call today, having seen Moeen Ali’s first over (that went for three runs). But they hit some good shots, quite extreme conditions with the short boundary and the wind. It was a call that probably didn't come off today.”

England, too, were off to a bright start with the bat. With Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Starc being a bit erratic with the new ball, Buttler (42 off 28) and Phil Salt (37 off 23) played some attractive strokes to take the defending champions to 73/0 in seven overs. But that’s when Adam Zampa joined the attack and the Aussies began to pull things back.

The leg-spinner, who won the Player-of-the- Match award for his spell of 2/28, cleaned up Salt off his first delivery with a superb slider. From there, despite having a solid platform to build on, England put together an incredibly timid chase.

From the eighth over to the 17th, England had just one over with more than 10 runs scored. Jacks (10 off 10) and Jonny Bairstow (7 off 13), in at No.3 and No.4 respectively, could never get going as England kept falling behind in the chase. Australia did their thing when it mattered most, with their bowling and fielding remaining disciplined, but England were guilty of not even looking for boundaries.

Moeen Ali (25 off 15) hit three sixes off Maxwell in the 14th over and England were left needing 78 to win off 36 deliveries. They didn’t hit a boundary for the next 21 balls in what was a bizarre period of play. Pat Cummins (2/23) was the other standout bowler for Australia as England finished well short despite having four wickets remaining in the end.

Buttler has been under pressure after England, the holders, produced a series of meek performances in the ODI World Cup in India last year. After splitting points in a rain-abandoned opening game against Scotland where England could have struggled chasing the stuff target in the 10-over-a-side game, this defeat leaves England on a very shaky ground in Group B.

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