Pre-tournament favourites England are in a spot of bother after losing their third match of the World Cup on Tuesday against archrivals Australia who dominated the match to win by 64 runs at Lords on Tuesday. Put into bat, Australia made a cautious start battling the overcast conditions to post 285/7 and then bowled out England for 221 to become the first team to book a spot in the semifinals of the World Cup as they lead the points table with 12 points from 7 matches.
Nothing went right for England apart from winning the toss. The home favourites made some poor decisions in the field electing to bowl first after two failed chases against Pakistan and Sri Lanka. That puzzling decision was followed by another in bowling Ben Stokes for only six of his quota of 10 overs even though he looked threatening with figures of 1-18 off 5 overs. Before the World Cup, top-ranked England had dominated in ODI series but the added pressure of being favourites at home and having never won the World Cup before have contributed to their losses.
Finch and Warner made a bright start though they had their share of luck playing and missing early on. But the pair stayed calm not going for extravagant shots and they put on an opening stand of 123 before Warner got out to Moeen Ali. England were also slack in the field coming up with a few misfields and didn’t attack the ball allowing Australia to take advantage running some quick twos. Smith who was booed as he came on to bat played his usual game turning the strike over with ones and twos and also came up with good boundaries. Finch went on to score a ton which was his second in this year’s World Cup but immediately got out to a mistimed hook straight to fine leg.
England bowled better thereafter coming with some sharp short deliveries mixed with some fuller balls that beat the edge of the bat. Smith got out to Woakes just as he was getting set scoring 38 and Australia lost wickets regularly before a late cameo from Alex Carey pushed Australia’s score to 285/7 which was still below what they would have expected after being 173-1 at one stage.
England were in the back foot right at the start as they faced a pair of hostile left armers in Mitchell Starc and Jason Behrendorff. James Vince was bowled by an inswinger in the second delivery from Behrendorff. Starc came up with a double strike dismissing Joe Root leg before with another inswinger and then having Morgan caught in the deep as he tried to pull a short delivery but only succeeded in getting a top edge. Jonny Bairstow followed soon as England slumped to 53/4.
Ben Stokes staged a lonely battle coming up with powerful hits to the boundary and smashed Maxwell ached his half-century. Though he was still struggling with his fitness, Stokes celebrated hitting Glenn Maxwell for a couple of sixes in an over. He stitched together a small partnership with Chris Woakes after losing James Buttler. But Starc put paid to England’s hopes of a win when he bowled Stokes with a beauty. An inswinging yorker that uprooted Stokes’ off stump. Soon after England were bowled out for 221 in the 45th over with Behrendorff finishing with 5-44 and Starc with 4 wickets. Finch was named man of the match for his century.
Speaking after the match, Behrendorff shrugged off the tag of being favourites now, “The competition is still very open. England are still a great side. They are probably still favourites, home country. Something that, yeah, we aspire to continue just playing good cricket. So I don’t think we’re favourites, that’s for sure.” He added that they had made a conscious decision to bowl full learning from England’s bowling. “We assessed where they (England) bowled. Like I mentioned before, they weren’t hitting the stumps too many times. So we made a conscious effort to get the ball out there to try to swing at them and hit the stumps as often as we could.” Speaking about playing two left-armers, Behrendorff said, “We don’t often see it, but yeah, I don’t see why we can’t. Sometimes you play three right-armers, so why can’t we play two lefties. Yeah, Mitch and I do different roles throughout the team, so it’s really good that we could partner together yeah.”
Morgan admitted to struggling with the basics, “I think both this game and the last, we struggled with the basics of what we call our batting mantra. You know, strong intent, building partnerships, and doing it in our own way, and we haven’t done those for long enough periods of the game in order to either chase down 230 or chase down 280, and that’s disappointing.”
When asked whether England’s confidence would be dent he said. “I think it will take a little bit of a hit. But I certainly don’t think it’s knocked anybody in the changing room. Normally when we lose games of cricket, like I mentioned yesterday, we go back to what we do well. We’ll still strive to do that for Sunday’s game.