T20 World Cup: England spoil India-Pakistan party with one of their greatest wins


Nights do not get much better than this in cricket.

Faced with a T20 World Cup semi-final against the might of India, England did not just win – they produced one of their greatest performances, sweeping aside their opponents in a glorious frenzy that left their supporters in a heady state of delirium.

England’s last World Cup match in Adelaide was their nadir.

Back in 2015, defeat by Bangladesh ended a pitiful 50-over World Cup campaign for a cricketing nation still visiting Blockbuster in the age of streaming.

Victory at Lord’s in 2019 will always stand alone among the highs that have come since but this 10-wicket victory against India holds up against anything else in the history of England’s white-ball side.

Beforehand, the task towering over England was daunting.

When Mark Wood and Dawid Malan went down injured in the lead up, England had five first-choice players on the injury list.

Their opponents, meanwhile, were a team of icons who transcend the sport, certainly in their home country of one billion cricket-mad fans. Icons who were backed by emotion the latest boyband could only dream of.

And that wave of feeling emanating from the stands filled the Adelaide Oval as an idyllic, picture-perfect setting turned into a baying theater of blue, orange and green.

Flags waved, drums banged and horns blared long before the first ball.

By the last it was a small section of England fans who could be heard, as the rest slipped away.

Victory for Rohit Sharma’s side would have set up a meeting with Pakistan on Sunday, an occasion that would have brought a continent, possibly the sporting world, to a standstill.

It is fair to say India fans were not the only ones hoping England would go down in valiant and entertaining defeat.

An all-Asian final was the talk of the town beforehand.

The prospect was raised at Jos Buttler’s pre-match news conference and he responded with a glint in his eye, 24 hours after England all-rounder Ben Stokes had also swatted away a similar question with a wry smile.

“We’ll be trying all we can do to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Buttler said.

In the end, his side became the party poopers who stole the show.

With the ball they battled to keep India in check – Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and crucially Suryakumar Yadav, India’s latest batting phenomena, were tied down and dismissed.

Even Virat Kohli, who has more centuries here than even the great Sir Don Bradman, was unable to cut loose in a fifty that flickered without igniting.

India’s swashbuckling, swaggering all-rounder Hardik Pandya did break free of England’s stranglehold, striking 63 from 33 balls to boost his side to 168-6, but the start gave Buttler’s side room for manoeuvre.

Still, the old England would have folded after Pandya’s onslaught – the pressure too strong.

Run-chasing in World Cup semi-finals is not supposed to be easy and England had only successfully chased a T20 target four times in 13 attempts this year.

Ten overs in, however, all-rounder Sam Curran was casually tossing a rugby ball on the sidelines like a player watching a game in a park.

A process was under way before him.

Faced with a familiar foe, Buttler settled English nerves from the start.

He guided and then flicked three fours off Bhuvneshwar Kumar, a seamer who had dismissed him five times in his previous international meetings.

Alex Hales took on the assault, making the most of an opportunity he has admitted he did not expect to come.

Hales missed England’s 2019 World Cup win after being dropped for off-field issues but, recalled after Jonny Bairstow’s injury and Jason Roy’s collapse in form, he is a victory away from a World Cup winner’s medal that looked to have passed him by.

Hales spent his exile racking up more runs than any other overseas player in Australia’s Big Bash.

Here he repeatedly sent the ball into an increasingly downbeat crowd, striking seven sixes and four fours and proving it time well spent.

As Hales and Buttler flogged the bowling, India increasingly looked a beaten side.

Mohammed Shami contrived to lob a throw over a team-mate’s head when attempting some relay fielding and England ran four.

Soon after, a sprawling Suryakumar dropped Buttler and at that stage those in blue surely knew their race was run.

Fittingly it was the England skipper, one emerging from the shadow of World Cup-winning captain Eoin Morgan, who hit the winning runs by cracking Shami over long-on.

He and Hales were two of five players in the England XI also part of the side seven years earlier. Buttler is probably the player to benefit most from the shackle-lifting period that has followed.

“It was a little bit different, wasn’t it, to seven years ago?” Buttler grinned afterwards, England’s highest chase without losing a wicket in T20 cricket complete.

It ensured the horrors of Adelaide have been pushed aside, memories replaced by a performance to remember.

England now head to Melbourne, where Pakistan stand in the way of a second T20 world title.

Should England succeed, at the iconic Melbourne Cricket Ground where their Ashes hopes were comprehensively ended 11 months ago, it could be a night to rival the greatest of them all.

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