Going into the last game of Group A, the situation was clear: If Australia won, they would go through to the semi-finals; If Australia did not win, Bangladesh would progress to the knockouts. Arguably it didn’t matter to England, who had already booked their place in the next round. That said, most observers consider Australia the more dangerous team to face and so there was some value in knocking them out.
England named an unchanged team, with Roy getting yet another chance and no rest for Stokes or Wood. Australia were put in to bat first, and the first innings followed a similar pattern to England’s bowling in their previous game against New Zealand. At the 30 overs mark, Australia had managed to get themselves into a commanding position with a score of 172/3 and Smith still at the crease. Ball, Stokes and Plunkett had all taken a bit of a hammering, and Australia seemed likely to post a score in excess of 350.
Instead, Steve Smith chipped a ‘slow’ (85 mph) Mark Wood loosener to mid off, and the whole complexion of the innings changed. Rashid and Wood, who had both bowled economically in the first half of the game, sliced through Australia’s middle and lower orders like a hot knife through butter. Australia barely managed to stagger to the end, finishing on 277/9.
Even with a score that was decidedly short of what was required, Australia weren’t out of the game (and competition). The second innings started with the familiar spectacle of Roy’s wicket falling, this time to an LBW from Mitchell Starc. He went beyond his now regular performance by going full Shane Watson and wasting England’s only review. Hazlewood was bowling incredibly well from the other end, taking the wickets of Hales and Root in his first three overs. He should have had three wickets, as wicketkeeper Matthew Wade dropped a chance from Eoin Morgan on the leg side from Hazlewood’s bowling. Two balls after Root’s dismissal, the rain started falling with England standing at 35/3 from 6 overs.
The rain moved on, and when England came back out to bat it seemed like a different game. Instead of being on the ropes, England dominated the Australian bowling. Stokes and Morgan seemed able to score at least a boundary every over, and often more than that. They both rode their luck at times, but fortune favoured the bold and they smashed England into a winning position. The only negative moment for them was when Morgan was run out after Adam Zampa lit up the wickets with a direct hit from mid off. Buttler came in and continued the dismantling of Australia’s bowlers, while Stokes cruised to his 3rd ODI century. One ball after Stokes reached that landmark, the heavens opened and the game was abandoned with England 40 runs ahead according to DLS calculations.
So Bangladesh go through at the expense of Australia, a result which I’m sure no one here enjoys immensely. From England’s perspective, they are unbeaten in the tournament but Roy’s form continues to worry many fans and pundits. The most worrying aspect for the ICC and ECB is that rain continues to affect the competition, and I’m sure they’ll be hoping that the erratic English weather suddenly becomes dry for the remainder of the event.
As always, comments on the day’s play or other topics welcome below.