Australia against England – A deserted match
Australia and England both earned a point from their T20 World Cup Group A match after a wet and unsafe game led to their MCG match being scrapped. Both teams now have three points, after winning and losing each in their first two games.
As a result, Friday’s match between these two old rivals was billed as a “loser out” showdown. Unfortunately, after raining throughout the day and intermittent showers in the evening, the stewards finally decided to stop it at 8.49pm local time. Although well before the downtime, with the possibility of a pentathlon on the condition that play begins at 10.04pm, there was no chance of the ground drying up in time due to the cold evening conditions, especially the jogging periods of the bowlers. Which was particularly worrying.
Heavy rain over the past couple of days in Melbourne drove both sides in on Friday knowing that rain will play a role. The first match of the day, between Afghanistan and Ireland, was also abandoned without the coin toss, so it was no surprise that this match went the same way.
“The pitch has been under dunks over the past two weeks, and it’s as wet as I’ve ever seen,” Australia captain Aaron Finch said. “The competitions and around the circuit were very wet. It is about player safety. We saw a Zimbabwean come down the other day (Richard Ngarava). If you try to run there, it will be a real issue.”
The inspection came at 7.30 p.m. local time – 30 minutes after the scheduled start – and went, with everything but the lid across the box in place where the drag was momentarily suspended. However, surface water remained a concern with the drainage system and super overtime.
A check was done at 8.15pm and then gave way to one at 8.50pm. But before the latter could happen, another shower prompted the stewards to cancel the match, sending 30,000 fans who braved the elements in their path.
“Everyone was here to play, and everyone was ready to go,” Finch added. “And there was a huge turnout. It was disappointing not to continue, but the amount of rain that Melbourne and the east coast of Australia have had over the past two weeks has been staggering.”
As it stands, England moved into second place in the Group 1 standings thanks to their +0.239 net run rate, ahead of Ireland (who beat them on Wednesday) and Australia, both of whom also have three points.
However, they also face the toughest showdown between teams that can now finish with seven points, with New Zealand coming in Brisbane on Tuesday (where more rain is expected) followed by Sri Lanka the following Saturday. While two wins would likely be enough to propel England into the semi-finals, Australia have contenders against Ireland and Afghanistan, where so far they can improve their 1.555 net sprint average.
In the meantime, New Zealand could lose to England and continue to qualify, if they manage to beat Sri Lanka and Ireland in the other two matches. Ireland themselves and Afghanistan are still fiercely contested for the playoffs as well, with a one-point difference between the six teams.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is Associate Editor at ESPNcricinfo
“Student. Incurable problem solver. Amateur baconaholic. Introvert. Infuriatingly humble music fanatic.”