England hope to use the shock of defeat to Ireland to their advantage in Friday’s crucial match against Australia in the T20 World Cup. Their coach, Matthew Mott, has called on his side to “show a response”.
“You don’t often win World Cups at the start and you often lose a game early,” he said. “For some teams that’s actually quite liberating and frees them up with more of an aggressive mindset. It can be a bit of sting that you need. We don’t want to lose any games but it is probably going to galvanise the group in terms of our approach.
“If we play a good game and Australia are better than us that’s OK with me. We need to show a response. We need to come out with a really attacking mindset and maybe throw caution to the wind and see how we go. A lot of people, after one result, have written us off. I don’t think it makes much difference. We can still progress to the semis and from there it’s anyone’s game.”
With less than 48 hours between the end of the Ireland game and the scheduled start of the Australia match, England have had no time to dwell on defeat. “That’s game’s done now, put that to bed,” Liam Livingstone said. “We know where we need to get better and we’ve got a massive challenge on Friday. I’m sure everyone will be looking forward to that.”
Having been thrashed by New Zealand in their opening game, Australia also feel they cannot afford to lose. But neither side has let their precarious position provoke doubts about their players: Aaron Finch would admit no concerns about his own form or that of Pat Cummins, who, after two games, is unexpectedly the most expensive bowler in the tournament (of those who have bowled at least five overs). Nor would Mott about the batting of Ben Stokes, Dawid Malan or Harry Brook. “Definitely no sweeping changes,” he said. “You’re always talking about what to do differently but I still think we’ve got the right balance.”
After the Ireland game Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes spoke to the group about how their approach must change. “It was a sombre dressing room,” Mott said. “I thought Ben spoke really well.
“It’s a different mindset now. We don’t have the luxury of losing another game, we’re playing against the hosts and defending champions and there’s no need for us as coaches to motivate the group.”
The dressing room was sombre in more ways than one. There are four at the MCG and for double-headers the primary pair are reserved for the teams involved in the late game. Ireland and England were thus accommodated on the opposite side of the ground, in spacious but gloomy subterranean rooms. England carried that atmosphere on to the pitch (not a problem Ireland seemed to suffer). They will be back in relative comfort of the main changing rooms on Friday.
This is just as well because they may well have to spend a long time there. Rain is forecast in Melbourne every day for the next week, including for much of Friday, and with another double-header scheduled – Afghanistan play Ireland in the afternoon – more abbreviated or abandoned matches seem likely. While clearly suboptimal, a rain-enforced draw would at least postpone the moment the guillotine falls on either side.
This has been a freak year for rainfall in Australia. Sydney has already passed its record for October and Melbourne is expected to do so before the month is out. But the timing of the tournament always put it at risk of disruption. Finch said on Thursday: “It’s been a miserable couple of days, but playing a World Cup this time of year, weather’s inevitable.”
In the week from 20 October Brisbane had 97.4mm of rain, Melbourne 50.4mm and Sydney 31.6mm, all of them more than any region in England. The tournament’s slogan is “This is the Big Time”, but perhaps they should have considered “This is the Wrong Time”.