SOUTHAMPTON-England edged out Australia by two runs after the visitors required just 39 runs from the last six overs with nine wickets in hand at Southampton.

The visiting bowlers had earlier restricted England to 162/7, despite Jos Buttler’s early fireworks and Dawid Malan’s well-composed 66. In particular, Kane Richardson and Glenn Maxwell provided control, returning figures of 2/13 and 2/14 respectively from three overs apiece. Ashton Agar bounced back from his first over being taken for 16 by Buttler, to dismiss the explosive opener for 44 to begin a period of Australian dominance after England had put on 55/1 in the Powerplay.

Other than Buttler and Malan, only Chris Jordan got to double figures, hitting 14* from 8 balls in a late cameo. Through the middle overs though, the work was left mainly to Malan, who registered his eighth score of fifty or more in his 14-match T20I career. The No. 3 also provided vital late impetus to England’s innings by hitting Adam Zampa for back-to-back sixes in the leg-spinner’s last over.

Australia looked on track to coast to victory thanks to Finch and Warner’s early dominance, with the pair adding 98 runs in 11 overs before the Australia captain was caught at mid-off off the bowling of Jofra Archer. Steve Smith looked fluent as he scored 18 from 11 balls, including two fours and a six, but Adil Rashid had him caught sweeping and then dismissed Maxwell four balls later as England fought back. The pace of Archer and Mark Wood gained England another two quick wickets as Warner and Alex Carey were both clean bowled to complete a collapse of four wickets for nine runs, with the visitors still needing 30 from 21 balls.

Tom Curran managed to prevent Marcus Stoinis or Agar from finding the boundary in the 18th over before Jordan produced a sublime over under pressure, conceding just four singles and running out Agar with an athletic piece of fielding. With 15 needed from the final over Stoinis looked to find the rope, smoking the second ball over cover for six. But Curran held his nerve, producing an excellent yorker to deny Stoinis the boundary he needed from the final ball.

ENGLAND, AUSTRALIA LOOK TO FIX 

MIDDLE-ORDER WOES

England may have won the first game by two runs after an Australia middle-order collapse, but not before they suffered a middle-order meltdown themselves. The teams will look for answers ahead of the second T20I. Australia were in pole position to win the first game after a cracking start to the chase by their openers, but the failure to close out the game has put the spotlight back on their middle order struggles in T20I cricket.

Over the last two years, Glenn Maxwell has been Australia’s most prolific run-scorer from positions between No.4 to No.7, scoring 349 runs at 38.77 but no other batsman has aggregated even hundred runs when batting in those positions. Australia will hope for the likes of Carey and Stoinis to come good, while Marnus Labuschagne could be in line for a T20I debut.

England’s middle-order concerns haven’t been quite as grave but with Ben Stokes absent for this series and Moeen Ali struggling with form, the bulk of the burden to score has fallen on Eoin Morgan’s shoulders. The home team are experimenting with Tom Banton, usually a top-order batsman, in the middle order and could well give him more chances to get used to batting there.

The teams, occupying the top spots on the ICC Men’s T20I Rankings, have exceptional resources in the opening and bowlers’ departments. It is unlikely either side will consider major changes in those areas from their personnel in the first game, except for purposes of experimentation.

 

Scorecard

 

ENGLAND:

J Buttler c Cummins b Agar 44

J Bairstow c Starc b Cummins 8

D Malan c Smith b Richardson 66

T Banton c Finch b Agar 8

E Morgan c Smith b Maxwell 5

M Ali c Zampa b Maxwell 2

T Curran c Agar b Richardson 6

C Jordan not out 14

A Rashid not out 1

EXTRAS: (b 2, w 6) 8      

TOTAL: (7 wkts, 20 overs) 162

FOW: 1-43, 2-64, 3-74, 4-91, 5-108, 6-124, 7-147. 

BOWLING: MA Starc 3-0-30-0, AC Agar 4-0-32-2, PJ Cummins 3-0-24-1, KW Richardson 3-0-13-2, A Zampa 4-0-47-0, GJ Maxwell 3-0-14-2. 

AUSTRALIA:

D Warner b Archer 58

A Finch c Jordan b Archer 46

S Smith c Bairstow b Rashid 18

G Maxwell c Morgan b Rashid 1

M Stoinis not out 23

A Carey b Wood 1

A Agar run out 4

P Cummins not out 0

EXTRAS: (lb 2, w 7) 9      

TOTAL: (6 wkts, 20 overs) 160

FOW: 1-98, 2-124, 3-127, 4-129, 5-133, 6-148. 

BOWLING: JC Archer 4-0-33-2, MA Wood 4-0-31-1, CJ Jordan 3-0-23-0, TK Curran 4-0-33-0, AU Rashid 4-0-29-2, MM Ali 1-0-9-0. 

TOSS: Australia

UMPIRES: M Saggers, A Wharf

TV UMPIRE: David Millns

MATCH REFEREE: Chris Broad