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Australia vs England: England look to seal T20 series after passing first test in Australia
England’s World Cup selection looks clearer after a thrilling opening win in Australia, but greater challenges await. Watch the T20 series exclusively live on BT Sport.
Blistering batting, a compelling run chase and controversy aplenty. Try telling Australia and England this was just a World Cup warm-up.
England defended 208 on a Perth pitch conducive to excellent T20 cricket in a gripping first encounter between two of foremost exponents of the format and tournament favourites.
It was a match that sets the tone for a fascinating series, with all the action from games two and three in Canberra exclusively live on BT Sport.
Returning captain Jos Buttler showed no signs of rustiness after a two-month injury lay-off, thrashing a tame first over from Cameron Green for four boundaries to kick-start a 132-run stand with Alex Hales after being put into bat by Australian captain Aaron Finch.
Buttler made 68 from 32 balls, but Hales, preferred to Phil Salt at the top of the order despite mixed performances in Pakistan, went through the gears to top score with 84 in an increasingly fluid innings.
“This is an opportunity I didn’t think I would get again,” he said, after being named player of the match and surely sealing his World Cup spot.
The mammoth opening stand forced Dawid Malan down the order and the innings tailed off with a huge total of beyond 230 looking attainable at one stage.
Test skipper Ben Stokes is understandably searching for rhythm after a prolonged absence from T20s and he was out for nine after a scratchy knock after being promoted to number three.
There is no doubt about his inclusion in the World Cup, but England will be desperate for their talisman to find some form ahead of the opener against Afghanistan.
He was dropped off his fourth ball and sliced a delivery from Nathan Ellis to mid-off in his first T20 international since March 2021.
Chris Woakes played a useful cameo to fire England past 200, but their momentum was inexorably stalled after Buttler and Hales were dismissed.
Seamer Ellis was the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 20 from his four overs for Australia, who rested their entire frontline attack. The 28-year-old bowled a superb 19th over to claim Sam Curran and Moeen Ali and was one of few bowlers to emerge from a high-scoring game with his reputation enhanced.
Australia, who overlooked Steve Smith, kept up with the run rate for most of the chase and were favourites when David Warner and Marcus Stoinis were at the crease.
Warner was named player of the tournament when they won the World Cup last November and he got off his side off to a flyer to keep them in the contest.
Mitchell Marsh (36) and Stoinis (35) supported him, but regular wickets fell to curtail their progress and they fell just short of a record T20 chase against England.
Mark Wood bowled with real venom and accuracy and swung the game in the 15th over with the wickets of Stoinis and Tim David when the hosts were on top.
He finished with figures of 3-34 and was involved in a moment of controversy when Matthew Wade appeared to impede him when he tried to take a return catch after the Australian top-edged the ball onto his helmet with the game in the balance.
The incident has become the biggest talking point in the world of cricket with many criticising Wade for blatantly obstructing the field.
Buttler decided against appealing to the umpires at the start of a long stint in Australia in a decision that ultimately didn’t cost England.
“They [the umpires] asked if I wanted to appeal, but I thought we are here for a long time in Australia so it would be a risky one to go for so early in the trip,” he said.
Sam Curran (2-35) also did his cause no harm, conceding only seven runs and picking up two wickets in the final over when Australia required 16 to complete a remarkable chase.
“[The death overs] are moments you want to be involved in. Some days you might win, some days you might lose but I had great senior players in the side helping me through that in Jos and Mo [Moeen Ali],” he said.
Finch raised eyebrows when he decided to drop himself down the order to accommodate Green who is not in the World Cup squad.
He made scores of 58 and 15 in the 2-0 series win over the West Indies and was run out for 12 against England, but he revealed after the game that he will return to the top of the order in Canberra.
“I’ll go back to the top next game, which was always the plan,” he said. “It was just about giving Greeny more opportunity at the top and trying things in case he had to be called into the [World Cup] squad.”
Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Adam Zampa and Glenn Maxwell all return for the rest of the series and England’s impressive batting in Perth comes with the caveat that they were effectively facing Australia’s second string.
Yet it was a valuable exercise for England who were justified in their decision to include Hales and Curran who both possibly made conclusive arguments ahead of the World Cup.
Buttler dismissed suggestions that England are tournament favourites but should Stokes find form in Wednesday’s second match, they should be considered serious contenders.
Watch the 2nd T20 exclusively live on BT Sport 1 from 8.45am on Wednesday.