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June 25, 2019

England’s World Cup nerve faces Australia test


June 25, 2019

LONDON: Are England just a bunch of “flat-track bullies”? That’s the uncomfortable question facing Eoin Morgan’s side as they look to get their World Cup campaign back on track against arch-rivals Australia.

Tuesday’s (today’s) match at Lord’s was always going to be a showpiece occasion, but it has been given added spice by England’s 20-run loss to Sri Lanka. Faced with a relatively modest target of 233 on a tricky Headingley pitch, England slumped to 212 all out.

Despite their second defeat of the pool phase following an earlier loss to Pakistan, the tournament hosts remained in the top four and on course for a semi-final spot. But England, bidding to win the World Cup for the first time, cannot afford many more slip-ups in their remaining pool fixtures.

England’s rise to the top of the One-day International rankings since their woeful first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup has been based on aggressive batting. Doubts, however, persist about their ability to bat in less than ideal conditions for shot-making.

England’s problems have also been compounded by the absence of Jason Roy from their past two matches, with a torn hamstring sidelining the in-form opener from the Australia clash as well.

By contrast, Australia have been buoyed by the productive opening partnership between captain Aaron Finch and David Warner. Mitchell Starc is the joint-leading wicket-taker at the World Cup — his tally of 15 putting him level with fellow pacemen Jofra Archer (England) and Mohammad Amir (Pakistan) — but Australia’s bowling in support of the left-armer has looked vulnerable.

Allan Border, Australia’s captain when they beat England in the 1987 World Cup final in Kolkata, believes it will be the bowlers who are decisive. “The game will be won and lost in the bowling,” he wrote in an ICC column. “If Australia can hold their ground against the onslaught and put pressure back on England, that’ll be key.”

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