England’s World Cup hopes hang in the balance after a demoralising defeat by Australia at Lord’s. The 64-run loss means they might need to win their last two games, beginning with India at Edgbaston on Sunday, in order to make the last four.
Much will depend on the results of Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, who can all overhaul Eoin Morgan’s men.
The hosts began the tournament as favorites, but now have little margin for error, with this loss following Friday’s shock reverse to Sri Lanka to make a total of three defeats in seven games.
They actually did well to restrict Australia to 285-7, especially after captain Aaron Finch’s century helped his team to 173-1.
However, that target was always going to be a challenge against the dangerous Australia attack in conditions ideally suited to pace bowling. So it proved. The heart was ripped out of England’s top order and, at 53-4, their chase was in tatters.
Just as he did against Sri Lanka, Ben Stokes played a virtually lone hand for 89, but after he was bowled by a searing Mitchell Starc yorker, England subsided to 221 all out.
Now they face the prospect of having to beat at least one, maybe both, of India and New Zealand – two unbeaten sides and, in the case of India, the best team in the tournament.
|World Cup group table|
England wilt in Lord’s pressure cooker
A meeting between cricket’s oldest rivals, on its grandest stage and with the World Cup jeopardy feeling very real, all contributed to a supercharged atmosphere.
Indeed, almost a month after it started, this felt like the day the tournament really began.
For England, overcome by the tension of it all, it may be one step closer to the end.
Might they rue the decision to field first? Given the conditions, it was entirely understandable, but the suspicion remained Australia would be less comfortable chasing, in addition to the fact that England’s two prior defeats had also come batting second.
Yes, Chris Woakes had no luck with the new ball, but Jofra Archer and Mark Wood struggled with their length, even if both men played their part in England’s admirable fightback.
However, they were later given a lesson in the benefits of a full length by the Australians, who removed James Vince and Joe Root with swing and were gifted the wickets of Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow, both caught on the pull.
In the end, it was like England’s 50-over dominance of the past four years had never happened, and usual service against Australia, whom they have not beaten in the World Cup since 1992, had resumed.
All this comes in the run-up to an Ashes series that England are in danger of having extra time to prepare for.
|The race for the semi-finals – remaining fixtures|
|India (30 June)||India (2 July)||South Africa (28 June)||New Zealand (26 June)|
|New Zealand (3 July)||Pakistan (5 July)||West Indies (1 July)||Afghanistan (29 June)|
|India (6 July)||Bangladesh (5 July)|
England fall short
England can rightly say they could have taken more than one Australia wicket with the new ball – Woakes had Finch edge over second slip and narrowly escape being lbw on review, while Vince got his fingertips to a spectacular flying effort at point off Archer.
But for every occasion England beat the bat, there were more that their lengths were poor, and they were punished by an opening stand of 123 between Finch and David Warner.
England were visibly frustrated, their fielding scruffy, as when Jos Buttler missed the opportunity to stump Usman Khawaja off Adil Rashid.
Gradually, they got it together, however. The bowling improvement was collective, the fielding showed greater intent. Wickets fell at regular intervals as Australia wasted their platform.
Even then, a good start with the bat was needed, not Vince playing all around a Jason Behrendorff inswinger to the second ball of the innings.
Root was trapped by Starc; Morgan, then Bairstow, holed out. Stokes and Buttler then added 71 before Khawaja produced a superb running catch on the boundary to remove the latter.
Stokes was already battling an injury to his left leg by the time he heaved two sixes off the same Glenn Maxwell over, his stand of 53 with Woakes gradually restoring belief to Lord’s.
It was sucked away by an almost unplayable delivery from Starc and, as Stokes kicked his bat in frustration, the game was up.
Australia getting it right again
A year ago, in the wake of the sandpaper scandal, a chaotic Australia were hammered 5-0 in an ODI series in this country.
Now, with Warner and Steve Smith restored, captain Finch and coach Justin Langer moulding the side and their fast bowlers firing, they are in hunt to retain their title and win a fifth World Cup in six.
This win, their sixth from seven games, takes them to 12 points, top of the table and assured of a place in the semi-finals.
Home captain Morgan said before the game that he would not discourage the crowd from booing Smith and Warner, and the Lord’s crowd duly made their feelings known at every opportunity.
Australia, though, were undeterred. First Finch played drives and pulls, as well as thumping the spinners over the leg side, to take his tournament run tally to 496, just four behind Warner, whose 53 made him the first man to 500.
Their bowlers found swing rarely seen with a white ball and also induced England mistakes with clever use of the short ball.
Pat Cummins was excellent, Behrendorff claimed 5-44, but the biggest danger was the loose-limbed Starc, whose 4-43 restored him to the position of the tournament’s leading wicket-taker.
It was all backed up by Finch’s smart captaincy and some sharp fielding, especially when Maxwell brilliantly offloaded to Finch to have Woakes caught at cow corner.