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England must be ruthless to stay in T20 World Cup, says Moeen Ali
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England must be ruthless to stay in T20 World Cup, says Moeen Ali

Moeen Ali has called on England to stay calm and deliver two ruthless performances as they try to rescue a T20 World Cup defence teetering on the brink of a potentially ­embar­rassing first-round exit.

The 36-run defeat to Australia in Barbados on Saturday has left ­qualification for the Super Eights out of England’s hands. As well as ­needing Scotland to lose their final match against Australia and remain on five points, Jos Buttler’s men must boost their own net run-rate – ­currently minus 1.8, compared to Scotland’s plus 2.16 – by thrashing Oman and Namibia in Antigua this week.

Scotland needed only 13.1 overs to romp to a seven-wicket ­victory against Oman last night.

“It’s about being calm and not letting the outside noise affect us,” said Moeen, Buttler’s vice-captain. “We need to be more aggressive without being reckless, not overthink things and take those two teams down. We’ve got to go into them, almost throw the first punch and just keep going from there.”

While the washout against Scotland last week was ­damaging but unfortunate, the defeat against ­Australia has invited early ­questions ­regarding England’s strategy just six months after a bleak 50-over World Cup in India when Rob Key, the team ­director, handed Buttler and his head coach, Matthew Mott, a second chance.

Moeen said: “My own personal thing is, I don’t care about that 50-over World Cup, that’s done. I think we’re better at T20s, I just think Australia were better than us on the day. I don’t think the dressing room is ever positive when you lose a game, especially to Australia. But you can’t get too down and go into your shells and say: ‘What if this happens, etcetera?’ We’ve just got to be really ruthless.”

Much of the focus on Saturday was the tone-setting 22-run over that Will Jacks shipped with the new ball, a “gut call” according to Buttler but one that looked planned and possibly inspired by the off‑spinner ­knocking over Travis Head cheaply during the recent Indian Premier League. Not that a sub-60m boundary and a crosswind blowing into it made this a value bet at the Kensington Oval.

There was also the decision to prefer the pace of Mark Wood to Reece Topley’s left-arm swing, despite the latter’s strong record in the powerplay against left-handers. Topley’s father, Don, who is in the Caribbean as a commentator, posted on social media after the toss to insist his son was “100% fit and raring”, before adding: “Hoping it’s not a stubborn selection!”

Either way, England’s attack is being shored up by the class of a fit-again Jofra Archer – if he had missed this tournament it does not bear ­thinking about – and for Moeen it is a case of greater discipline being required, be it nailing the first ball of an over or closing out the last. En route to their 201 for seven, ­Australia’s batters signed off four of the last six overs by finding the rope.

“Australia were smarter than us with the ball,” Moeen said. “We just kept leaking those boundaries and at the wrong time. I think we’ve just got to be a bit more precise, no looseners, and try to make something happen, not hope it will.”

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Australia’s captain, Mitchell Marsh, pats Josh Hazlewood after he took the wicket of England’s Jonny Bairstow.View image in fullscreen

England’s predominantly right-handed batting lineup was also too easily boxed in by Australia’s better use of the ground dimensions. ­Moeen’s promotion to No 5 reflected this and, with Jonny Bairstow short on form these past six months and less mobile in the field since recovering from a broken ankle, Ben Duckett, the spare batter on tour, may come into the reckoning.

After flying to Antigua yesterdayon Sunday morning, England have three full days of preparation before meeting Oman under lights at the Sir Vivian Richards ­Stadium on Thursday night. TheAs it stands, the next week on the island is forecast to be predominantly dry; one small positive for a campaign that is already listing.

Source: theguardian.com