Australia defeat gives meaning to England’s horrid campaign

England, the defending champions, are out of the 2023 Cricket World Cup with two matches to go. They were eliminated with six wins from seven games which gives captain Jos Buttler a seventh opportunity to lament what is wrong with the team that won the World Cup on the boundary count rule in 2019.

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There was a slight difference in the story, however, on Saturday. It was not the usual scene when Buttler failed to come up with words and explanation to describe why England were so poor in the 2023 tournament. This time Buttler was trying to wrap his head around the fact England did not win a dead or dying game.

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Chasing 287 against Australia in Ahmedabad with the help of dew and under conditions that didn’t support the bowlers much, England were in a comfortable position at 169/4 in 35 overs. Needing 112 from the next 15 overs and with Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali set at the top, England would have a chance. But understandably, as has so often happened in the tournament, England lost six wickets for 84 in 13.1 overs and Australia edged closer to the semi-finals, knocking their bitter rivals out of the tournament.

“Improvements today, more with the bat, but we were still well short … with the dew over, we backed ourselves and fell 30 runs short,” said a puzzled Buttler at the awards ceremony after -game.

In all six wins before the match against arch rivals, England were guilty of not putting up any fight in their batting. It was an inexplicable series of victories and the batsmen failed more often than the bowlers.

It was the same against Afghanistan, South Africa, Sri Lanka and India.

When it came to the do-or-die contest, the bowlers put their hands up and the batsmen did not. In a game where England came close to putting up a real fight, the wheat was separated from the chaff.

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Jonny Bairstow continued his poor form with a golden duck, and Jos Buttler (1) failed to live up to his reputation, but what about Joe Root and Liam Livingstone?

Root (13) has scored 29 runs in his last five innings. Livingstone (2) has scored 40 runs in his last five innings. England have lost their last five games on the trot and the winning streak saw them knocked out of the World Cup.

Now these are the same two players who were brought into the squad to play specialist roles. While Root, who scored 556 in the 2019 World Cup, is the anchor of England’s batting order, Livingstone is the terminal. The truth is that both were poor.

“Man man, I’d have this team (England) any day over Australia,” Root said before the match at the Narendra Modi stadium.

Not sure he would be able to say the same about himself now.

Zampa razes down England

The architect of Australia’s greatest wins was leg-spinner Adam Zampa who is now the highest wicket-taker (19) in the 2023 World Cup. The 31-year-old took three wickets on the night at an average economy rate 2.10.

With all due respect, Zampa was good, but England’s incompetent batsmen against spin made him more of a threat. The tweaker was forced to stick to the stump-to-stump line for the most part and the English batsmen conceded in the fight. This was not surprising given that England were second worst against spin bowling in the 2023 World Cup.

As a team, their batting average against spin bowling in the tournament is 20.22. The only team worse is the Netherlands at 19.82. In seven matches, England have lost 28 wickets from the spin bowling and only scored at a rate of 4.93.

England was clearly not ready for Indian conditions.

Meanwhile, Australia, who started the tournament with two back-to-back wins, are now on a five-match winning streak. This despite the fact that the team had injury problems with Travis Head and Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh leaving home halfway through for personal reasons.

It was a clinical all-round performance that essentially put the Aussies one win out of a semi-final place.

When the tournament started, Australia looked the same as England. However, as England prepare to leave India after their next two matches, their rivals in Ahmedabad will be proud of how they have recovered.

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