England came into their third game against Australia hoping for a whitewash, and ended up with a washout. The third and final rain interruption came with Australia’s innings 3.5 overs old, still seven balls away from the minimum required for this to constitute a match, but the fact there was no result does not mean there was no point.
Most obviously, England ended the night with spirits boosted but bodies fresh. They had faced 12 overs, a twice-interrupted, much-abbreviated innings from which very little was really learned. Apparently Jos Buttler is quite good. He ended the innings unbeaten on 65 off 41 balls, though he only really found top gear for a single Josh Hazlewood over, from which he thrashed three fours, a couple of twos and a six.
Perhaps the most notable moment of his innings came when he was not even on strike, and Mitchell Starc warned him that he was backing up a little eagerly. The topic of running-out the non-striker was resurrected when Deepti Sharma ran out England’s Charlie Dean in the final ODI between England Women and India last month, and could be a theme of this World Cup.
Buttler himself said recently that he would call back an opponent who fell victim to what has become known as a Mankad – even its name is controversial – on the basis that “no one wants to see them in the game because they always create such a talking point when it should be about the battle between bat and ball”, a position that risks encouraging England’s opponents to be carefree.
“I think if guys get a warning, then it’s fair game after that,” Aaron Finch said afterwards. “That would go for most teams, I assume. If you give a batter a warning, because you think they’re gaining a little bit too much ground before a ball’s bowled, then after that … but I’m not a big fan personally.”
Starc bowled particularly well, getting notable movement in the early overs. Chris Woakes watched, waited and, when Australia’s reply started, created a few minutes of delicious chaos as Finch and Mitch Marsh fell to the first two balls of the innings. “We wanted to go ultra-hard to get ahead of Duckworth-Lewis,” explained Finch, “and when you play a high-risk game you can come unstuck a little bit. Woakes had it on a string at the start there. He swung the ball more than anyone in the series.”
Finch admitted his side had been outplayed throughout the series but not that it would have any impact on their World Cup chances: “I think it’s just about the guys peaking at the right time and not burning out too early.” England, however, will take great encouragement, not just from dominating a series against their great rivals away from home but from doing so having been forced to bat first in every game.
“Generally sides want to bat second,” Woakes said. “On good wickets chasing down totals is usually an easier way to go about it. The fact we won the games in this series bowling second is the big takeaway for us. It shows we can defend totals on good surfaces where it generally favours the bat. Obviously the bigger picture is the World Cup. We know we can’t think that just because we’ve won this series we’ll dominate the World Cup. It’s going to be a tough tournament, this series is in the past and you’ve got to focus on what’s coming up.”
Finch, who celebrated becoming the first Australian to reach the landmark of 100 international T20 appearances, is doing likewise. “It’s been a really good ride,” he said. “I’m proud of what I’ve achieved so far in the game. One more World Cup would be nice.”