LONDON (Agencies): They were outgunned in the ODI series, but Australia put England in the shade for the second consecutive Twenty20. In front of 42,691 fans here, the Australian international summer was closed in style with a dominant seven-wicket win, with 33 balls to spare. Two wins against England and one against New Zealand means Australia qualify for the final of the Trans-Tasman Tri-Series in Auckland on 21 February.
The perfect balance of a side made up of players fresh out of the Big Bash League and a better appreciation of the dimensions of a vast outfield gave the hosts an edge they did not let slip. England’s total of 137 for seven on a ground where the average winning score batting first is 160 was made to look severely inadequate.
Eoin Morgan sat out with a groin strain, meaning Jos Buttler was captain for the sixth time in his career. That he ended with England’s top score owed more to duty than his usual pyrotechnics. His 43 was the only innings of note and at 49 balls ranked as the slowest of his 20 knocks of 25-plus in the format. After losing the toss, he arrived at the crease at the end of the fourth over, his team floundering on 34 for three and, although he batted to the end, he was unable to conjure a big finish.
“After a poor performance at Hobart, we were determined to show what we were capable of tonight,” said a disgruntled Buttler. “We didn’t do that. We didn’t manage to soak up that early pressure. I just never got going and we were never able to get up to a score we thought was defendable.”
Alex Hales’s 50th T20 international lasted 11 balls as he was caught smartly by Aaron Finch, who had to run back from mid-on to catch the ball over his right shoulder at the second attempt. Jason Roy gave wicketkeeper Alex Carey catching practice before Dawid Malan was magnificently run out by a parallel-to-the-ground David Warner.
A shot in the arm from Sam Billings – his 29 off 23 balls the only innings in the top six to go better than a run-a-ball – gave the visitors a sniff of a competitive total. Buttler batted through to the end, caught by Ashton Agar as he looked to strike a six down the ground, giving Kane Richardson three for 33.
For the seventh time in seven games, Australia’s attack dog David Warner was neutered, this time edging David Willey through to the keeper. In those white-ball innings against England since the turn of the year, Warner has returned four single-figure scores.
Chris Lynn, D’Arcy Short and Glenn Maxwell picked up the slack. With the regular opener Aaron Finch coming back into the side at No 5, they had too much power for an England line-up not used to flagging behind.
Lynn’s 31 off 19 balls took Australia to 51 for two in the sixth over, taking the number of runs required below balls remaining. Short’s impressive summer continued with a measured 36 not out, allowing Maxwell to bring the decadence.
A reverse sweep off the second ball of the 10th over, bowled by Rashid, took Maxwell to 1,000 T20i runs. He marked the occasion with three more boundaries – a four, six and another four – off consecutive balls. When he departed for 39 via a top edge to give Chris Jordan his second wicket, he was replaced by Finch who sealed a dominant performance with back-to-back sixes.
England now move on to New Zealand, who they will play in Wellington on Tuesday. Both sides will be searching for their first win of the series.