T20 World Cup organisers miss a trick with tiebreaker climax for England’s showdown with Sri Lanka

 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

The calculators were out within seconds of England’s victory over New Zealand, a result that leaves the two sides, along with Australia, level on points at the top of the T20 World Cup’s Group 1.

There is a possibility the trio remain inseparable by that metric when all is said and done on Saturday afternoon, with all three favourites in their final Super 12 fixtures, and so our old friend net-run-rate is firmly in play.

For New Zealand, the maths is pretty simple: beat Ireland and they will reach the semi-finals. Australia face a similarly straightforward equation, though one with an outcome far less guaranteed: they must win big against Afghanistan on Friday and pray it is enough.

Whether NRN is even the right tie-breaker (after wins) remains a debate: it pays no heed to wickets lost, so long as it is not all 10, and at times encourages approaches at odds with the very essence of the T20 game. Accepting defeat prematurely in an ailing chase and looking to baton the overs is often more sensible than risking being skittled trying to win, for instance.

The fact England will know by the time they walk out at the SCG on Saturday exactly what Australia have done — and therefore what they must do in reply — is, frankly, a bit of a shame.

While Jos Buttler and his team will take the field with mission clarity, Aaron Finch’s men know only that victory by about 60 runs will make up the NRR differential, but are reliant on Sri Lanka running England close.

Granted, Australia have themselves to blame for this position of peril — mainly because of an 89-run thumping from the Kiwis — but not for this position in the schedule, and if the argument goes that playing last comes with more pressure, just ask the two captains which shoes they would rather fill.

In some sports, such disparity is unavoidable. Cricket, however, ought to have a quick fix. Football, for example, has simultaneous kick-offs for the final round of World Cup group games.

TV revenue and exposure are the stumbling blocks, with the format filling three broadcast slots instead of one, though the blow would be softened by the next tournament in 2025, when the planned expansion to four groups of five teams means each pool’s final day will feature just two matches.

Would broadcasters not prefer a run of marketable ‘D-Day’ simulcast double headers — not just games but groups swinging on quiet overs at one ground and boundaries at another — than risk dead-rubbers with jeopardy potentially lost to the ordering of games?

On that front, the situation in Group 1 is not even the best scenario with which to make the case: England must still beat Sri Lanka on Saturday to stay ahead of them in a game that will be live regardless of Australia’s result 24 hours earlier. How much more thrilling it could all be if the calculations were being done in real-time.