Lessons Learned from the First T20 Between Australia and England in Hobart
Third format of the tour, same result.
Australia recorded a 13 run over England in Hobart after Cameron White carried Australia to 212 before a top-order collapse wrecked England's chase, who fell short despite Ravi Bopara's entertaining cameo.
Click "Next" to read Freddie Wilde's match notes.
England's Top-Order Collapse
It is the natural inclination of a team chasing a big total in limited-overs cricket to bat with a sense of almost panicked urgency. Backswings are bigger, feet are planted sooner, hands move faster and swings are wilder. Rarely does such an approach prove successful. There is more to batting aggressively than simply increasing the speed of a shot, as England—defeated by a flattering margin of 13 runs, having succumbed to perturbation at the top of their order—were reminded of today.
In pursuit of Australia’s impressive, but by no means insurmountable 212 on a good batting pitch, England’s top three appeared hurried and flustered alarmingly early in their innings, and once Alex Hales, Michael Lumb and Luke Wright were all dismissed before the power play was over, England’s chances had taken a fateful blow.
Great White Hope
Analogous to England’s flustered and inauspicious start, Cameron White, playing his first international match since October 2012, anchored Australia’s innings with a display of commendable stoicism, scoring 18 off his first 19 balls before accelerating in a way that is becoming both more common and effective as contemporary boundary-striking has evolved and bludgeoning 57 off his remaining 24 deliveries.
White’s bulwark innings were dovetailed by the sustained aggression of Aaron Finch, Glenn Maxwell and debutant Chris Lynn, who carried Australia to and beyond 200. It was team innings of structure and cohesion, and while, of course, batting free of the looming spectre of a target to reach is no doubt easier, they displayed prudent nous distinct to the fevered nature of the format.
The Changing Nature of Power
The same could not be said of England, whose strategy was hard to decipher. It seemed Hales, Lumb and Wright were disconcerted by the perceived scale of the task at hand, quickly discarding any notion of building innings or laying a platform. Their recklessness emphasised as the embers of England’s innings caught alight with Ravi Bopara, batting at number seven, blitzing the fastest T20 fifty by an Englishman and taking England within just 13 of the target that had so worried the top-order earlier.
Batting has evolved rapidly in the last half decade, and the notion of looking to keep up with the run rate throughout innings is becoming increasingly redundant as players more frequently back themselves to isolate an over or two to attack in the latter half of innings of which perhaps 30 or 40 runs are scored, which immediately transforms the game. It was surprising that Hales, Lumb and Wright, regular T20 players, played as they did, for it was a target that didn't necessitate exaggerated attack—rather positive, platform building intent.
Australia’s bowlers were also expensive but crucially took wickets, too. A word of praise should be directed to debutant leg-spinner James Muirhead, who was both economical and promising in his four over spell.
Despite the difficulties facing the bowlers, England may feel that it could have restricted Australia to less than 212. Jade Dernbach conceded 25 runs off his two death overs, while the penultimate over, bowled by Tim Bresnan, was hit for 14.
England’s strategy was maybe thrown off-kilter when Broad was forced to bring himself back into the attack earlier than he’d perhaps planned—in just the 10th over, with Finch and White still at the crease. If it had been Broad—who finished with 1-25 from his four overs—bowling at the death, things could have been different. Things could also have been different had Joe Root, fielding at slip, caught White when Broad found the edge in his first spell. The margins in T20 are finer than in any other format, and there were more than a few instances today that England will look back and wonder "What if?".