Australia confirmed their place in the final of the Trans-Tasman T20I Tri-Series at the earliest possible opportunity, cruising to a seven-wicket victory over England at the MCG with 33 balls to spare.
An excellent display from the hosts’ seamers – with Kane Richardson taking 3-33 and Billy Stanlake 2-28 – restricted England to 137-7 and it never looked like being enough against an in-form Australian batting unit. So it proved, with Glenn Maxwell (39 from 26 balls) starring once again, opener D’Arcy Short easing to an unbeaten 36 from 33 deliveries and Aaron Finch (20* from 5) hitting consecutive sixes to wrap up a comprehensive victory.
The day started badly and got worse for the tourists, with Eoin Morgan ruled out due to a groin strain suffered in training on Friday and Jos Buttler deputising as captain.
David Warner won the toss and put England in, and he was duly rewarded as Alex Hales, Jason Roy and Dawid Malan were back in the hutch inside four overs. Stanlake and Richardson bowled with good pace and aggression, picking up Hales and Roy respectively, and a superb piece of fielding by Warner – collecting the ball at mid-off and throwing down the stumps – accounted for Malan.
Buttler (46 from 49) and James Vince (21 from 21), selected in place of Morgan, set about repairing the innings with a patient stand of 36 before the latter was bowled by a lovely piece of bowling from Andrew Tye, deceiving the right-hander with a looping knuckleball which knocked back off stump.
Sam Billings showed some flashes of brilliance in his innings of 29 from 23 deliveries but he and Buttler couldn’t make up for England’s miserable start. At the break, the visitors looked at least 30 runs short.
England needed to make early inroads if they were to stand any chance and David Willey offered some hope, finding Warner’s edge with just two runs on the board. However, Chris Lynn’s typically rambunctious 31 from 19 put the Aussies firmly in the driving seat.
When Lynn skied Chris Jordan to Buttler when looking for a third six of his innings, Maxwell picked up the baton, taking his time to play himself in before exploding into life. He took a particular liking to Adil Rashid, hitting three fours and a six in the leg-spinner’s third over.
That over and the preceding one from Liam Dawson cost 39 runs and effectively ended the contest. After Maxwell fell to Jordan in a carbon-copy of Lynn’s dismissal, Finch wasted no time in finishing the job on his return to the side. After the inertia of Australia’s batting displays in the ODI series, their T20 side has a powerful look to it.
The Trans-Tasman Tri-Series now heads to New Zealand, with England meeting the Black Caps in Wellington on Tuesday.