England’s misery continued in Hobart as an Australia second string scored a convincing win in the first of three Twenty20 matches.
Australia’s best players have already left to tour South Africa but those left behind were easily good enough to condemn the tourists to a defeat that was more emphatic than the winning margin of 13 runs would suggest.
T20 captain Stuart Broad had talked about his ‘scary’ batting line-up but there was little to frighten Australia as yet another England team were outclassed.
It was hoped that a side boosted by including a number of players who have been thriving in Australia’s Big Bash T20 league could galvanise England but the home team had too much power, poise and nous.
The pitch was perfect and one boundary particularly short at the Bellerive Oval but it was only Australia’s big hitters who could take advantage, 11 sixes coming in a total of 213 for four.
It proved 13 too many for England as the T20 specialists Alex Hales — rated the best short-form batsman in the world — Michael Lumb and Luke Wright all perished far too quickly for Broad’s side to stand any chance.
Only some spectacular late hitting from Ravi Bopara, preferred to Ben Stokes and needing a good Twenty20 series, stopped England from finishing woefully short, seven sixes coming in his unbeaten 65 from 27 balls that took his side to 200 for nine. But Bopara’s display flattered England.
‘I don’t think we were chasing too many, it’s just that our batting never got going,’ said Broad. ‘There was some awesome hitting from Ravi at the end but we hadn’t built a platform before he came in.’
Bopara went to 50 off only 23 balls, giving him the quickest half-century by an England player in a T20 international, but it came when the pressure was off and Australia were almost certain of victory.
Aaron Finch has proved a thorn in England’s side in limited-overs games and he was at it again, powering 52 in an opening stand with Cameron White of 106 off 64 balls.
Poor England fielding has been a constant irritation throughout the tour and there was another expensive miss when Joe Root dropped White off Broad when he had scored just 11 of his match-winning 75 from 43 balls.
It was a miss that Broad identified as crucial. ‘Dropped catches have been the story of our year and we have to iron that out,’ said Broad. ‘We have dropped too many.’
Even though conditions made life difficult for bowlers, England will be disappointed with their attack, with only Broad anywhere near the required standard.
Danny Briggs had suffered at the hands of Finch during his world-record 156 at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl last summer and the left-arm spinner, preferred to James Tredwell, was expensive again, conceding 53 runs in four overs.
Australia left England chasing a record target but the fact they finished only 14 short, with 24 coming off the final over, showed what might have been.
‘If you get 200 without hitting your straps it’s scary what might have happened,’ added Broad.
‘This T20 side have responded well to defeats in the past and we have to do it again now.’ Unless they do so in Melbourne tomorrow and Sydney on Sunday then this tour will end as badly as it started.
Broad, Stokes and Jos Buttler have decided not to put themselves forward for the Indian Premier League auction on February 12, electing to concentrate on domestic cricket as England begin rebuilding. Kevin Pietersen, Ian Bell and Eoin Morgan will be up for auction. – Daily Mail