England’s T20 World Cup hopes still alive after Australia washout

Washout: England’s Jos Buttler and Australia’s Aaron Finch   (PA)
Washout: England’s Jos Buttler and Australia’s Aaron Finch (PA)

England’s crucial T20 World Cup clash with Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground was this morning washed out without a ball being bowled, keeping both sides’ semi-final hopes alive.

Defeat for either of the old rivals would likely have spelt the end of their campaign, but instead Group 1 remains wide open, with the day’s earlier match — between Ireland and Afghanistan — also rained off at the same ground as the La Nina weather phenomenon continues to wreak havoc with the tournament.

Scheduled for a 9am start UK time, the umpires had until 11.46am to start a shortened game but took the decision to share the points more than an hour before that deadline, mercifully avoiding the farce of one side’s World Cup hopes being doomed by a five-over-per-side shootout.

Just a point now separates the six teams in Group 1, with two semi-final spots up for grabs, though leaders New Zealand and fifth-placed Sri Lanka have the benefit of a game in hand ahead of their meeting in Sydney tomorrow.

England are currently in second spot, above Ireland and Australia on net-run-rate, but will almost certainly have to win their remaining two matches — against Sri Lanka and New Zealand — to progress, presuming more bad weather does not further complicate affairs.

Even that is not guaranteed, though England’s net-run-rate is healthy in comparison to Ireland and Australia, who have both suffered heavy defeats already.

“The way with the weather is that it’s almost going to be like playing a final every game, but that’s what these competitions are about, you’re always under pressure to perform,” said England all-rounder Ben Stokes.

“It’s obviously a shame for the people who were going to turn out tonight, there’s a big crowd, and this is one of the great venues to play at, the MCG, with the history and all that, England versus Australia.”

Earlier, Ireland missed out on the opportunity to build on their shock victory over England as the Melbourne downpour put paid to their meeting with Afghanistan.

“[It’s] very disappointing,” Ireland captain Andy Balbirnie said. “We’d played good cricket and were looking forward to this but you can’t do much about the weather.”

The washout was even harsher on Afghanistan, who also saw their Super 12 game against New Zealand abandoned on Wednesday and, having lost their opener against England by five wickets before that, now need a miracle to advance to the knockout stage.