THIS is getting serious now, very serious. The nightmare scenario has slithered into view after this latest England debacle.
There is a clear and present danger of England failing even to reach the World Cup semi-finals unless they improve instantly and dramatically in their final two group games.
7 Australia dominated with bat and ball to secure a 64-run win at Lord’s and throw England’s chances at the World Cup into doubtCredit: Getty – Contributor
7 It was a frustrating day for England who struggled to break through the Australian batting sideCredit: Reuters
Eoin Morgan’s surrendered to the Aussies by 64 runs at Lord’s today and that makes two defeats on the trot. It is a potentially catastrophic sequence of results.
England bowled poorly in favourable conditions and then their batting was blown away by Australia’s two left-arm swing bowlers, Mitchell Starc and Jason Behrendorff, who shared nine wickets.
Even a superb innings by Ben Stokes for the second match running could not save England. The all-rounder made 89 despite hobbling and needing treatment on his calves.
Stokes was eventually bowled by a dead-eyed, deadly yorker from Starc, like so many batsman before him.
As his stumps were exploding and illuminating, Stokes kicked away his bat in despair. He was expressing the emotions of the whole team.
Mild concern after the loss to Sri Lanka last Friday has become genuine anxiety. If Pakistan beat New Zealand at Edgbaston tomorrow, a mood of sheer terror will engulf the England camp.
You see, if Pakistan overcome the Kiwis and then beat Afghanistan and Bangladesh in their final two group matches, England will need to beat India and New Zealand in their own last two games.
And Sri Lanka and Bangladesh also have mathematical chances of overhauling England and entering the last four.
Can you imagine not progressing to the semi-finals after four years as the world’s most compelling 50-over team, being tournament favourites and the host nation?
The humiliation would be enormous, the opprobrium unforgiving. But it hasn’t happened yet and there is reason to hope that England can still get there. One win out of two might be enough, depending on other results.
So let’s hold fire on the post-mortem while the body is alive, if not exactly kicking with joyful abandon.
One thing we can say is that there is overwhelming evidence that pressure is getting to England. Their fielding was poor in their first defeat to Pakistan and the batting was to blame against Sri Lanka. Now the bowling, fielding and batting were all sub-standard.
Chasing 286 for victory, England’s demise began from the second ball of their innings when James Vince missed an inswinger from Behrendorff. A top delivery but poor technique once more from Vince.
If the massively-missed Jason Roy is still injured for England’s next match, they have few options other than persevere with Vince but he looks out of his depth. At the very least, Vince is ruining his hopes of playing in the Ashes.
Joe Root was nailed lbw by Starc and then Starc coaxed a skittish-looking Morgan into top-edging a pull to fine leg.
Wicket No4 arrived when Jonny Bairstow holed out to deep mid-wicket off Behrendorff.
When Jos Buttler found deep square leg where Usman Khawaja took a good catch on the run, England were grievously damaged.
Stokes and Chris Woakes put on 53 for the sixth wicket before Stokes, whose effort included two sixes in the same over from Glenn Maxwell, was yorked.
Moeen Ali nicked off to give Behrendorff his third wicket and then Woakes was caught near the cow corner boundary thanks to the Maxwell-Aaron Finch tag team. Jofra Archer found long-off and the end came when Adil Rashid drove Starc to extra cover.
At the start of the day, Australia’s batsmen were confronted by testing conditions after Morgan won the toss. Following an overnight deluge, the ball was swerving and jagging and wickets appeared imminent.
But David Warner and Finch rode their luck – there were edges, plays and misses, an lbw review and Vince dropped a half-chance to reprieve Finch on 15 – and put on 123 for the first wicket.
Warner, the Aussie anti-hero who, like Steve Smith, received his usual chorus of boos, made another half-century and became the first batsman to reach 500 runs in the tournament.
The powerful Finch scored his seventh one-day international century against England before pulling a catch to fine leg next ball. Smith made 38 before mis-hitting into Archer’s hands at long-on.
7 Ben Stokes could only respond by kicking his bat in frustration after being bowled by a Mitchell Starc yorkerCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
7 The all-rounder top-scored for England with 89 but his innings was not enough to spark a stunning comebackCredit: AFP or licensors
7 Pat Cummings held on to captain Eoin Morgan’s shot that was destined to clear the boundaryCredit: Richard Pelham – The Sun
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England actually did well to restrict Australia to 285-7 after they were 173-1 in the 33rd over. They seemed destined for way beyond 300 at one stage.
Mark Wood bowled a strong second spell after being clobbered in his first while Stokes was steady and sent a screaming yorker through Khawaja’s defence to spark Australia’s slow-down.
But it turned out the Aussies had more than enough runs and now England are left to sweat and hope.
7 England’s World Cup hopes are suddenly looking a lot worse off after back-to-back defeatsCredit: News Group Newspapers Ltd
7 Aussie captain Aaron Finch hit a fine 100 and – together with David Warner – put on 123 for the first wicketCredit: Richard Pelham – The Sun
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