|Twenty20 tri-series, Melbourne:|
|England 137-7 (20 overs): Buttler 46, Richardson 3-33|
|Australia 138-3 (14.3 overs): Maxwell 39, Jordan 2-26|
|Australia won by seven wickets|
Australia’s brutal hitting helped them to an emphatic seven-wicket victory over England to secure their place in the Twenty20 tri-series final.
D’Arcy Short (36 not out), Glenn Maxwell (39), Chris Lynn (31) and Aaron Finch (20no) peppered the boundary to seal a comfortable win at the MCG.
England earlier posted a modest 137-7 from their 20 overs with stand-in captain Jos Buttler (46) top scoring.
Kane Richardson took 3-33 and Billy Stanlake claimed 2-28 for the hosts.
Australia won with 33 balls to spare and have booked their spot in the final in Auckland on 21 February thanks to their three tri-series victories.
England now face back-to-back matches with New Zealand in Wellington (13 February) and Hamilton (18 February) as they attempt to join Australia in the final.
England’s batsmen fail to get going
England’s batting line-up was unable to capitalise on a good start in their opening game of the T20 tri-series – a five-wicket defeat in Hobart – but in this match the top order was knocked over and the innings never really got going.
A sluggish pitch at the MCG and some disciplined bowling from the hosts reduced England to 34-3 as Australia seized the early initiative.
England skipper Eoin Morgan was absent with a groin injury which presented James Vince with an opportunity to impress, in his sixth T20 international appearance, at number four.
As in the Ashes Test series, he largely flattered to deceive, with two fortunate boundaries through third man before he was undone by a masterful change of pace from Andrew Tye for a run-a-ball 21.
The fearless and risk-taking style of England’s batting, defended by Morgan after the Hobart collapse on Wednesday, was less prevalent in England’s tentative approach on Saturday.
Sam Billings and stand-in captain Buttler rebuilt after Jason Roy (8), Alex Hales (3) and Dawid Malan (10) were dismissed to get the tourists to a semi-competitive total by rotating the strike and running hard, rather than aggressive stroke play.
Indeed just 12 of Buttler’s 46 runs from 49 balls came in boundaries while England’s innings featured one six – from Billings – as they reached 137-7.
Australia’s power hitters dominate
While England’s batsmen struggled to find the rope, it proved less difficult for Australia as their top order dismantled the tourists’ attack.
David Willey (1-30) had removed Australia skipper David Warner (2) as he used the early swing of the new ball before Lynn set the tone with 31 off 19 balls.
Adil Rashid and Liam Dawson briefly put the brakes on as Short and Maxwell initially played England’s spinners with circumspection.
However, once the pair had adjusted to the pace they made light work of the total as the ball was dispatched to the boundary with regularity.
Maxwell, who made an unbeaten century in Hobart, was brutal in his approach and clubbed two sixes and three fours in his 26-ball 39.
He mistimed a pull from Chris Jordan (2-26) and was easily caught by Buttler, but the damage had already been done.
Any sense that Australia might patiently nurdle their way to the finish was dispelled by Short and Finch who wasted little time in completing the job.
England’s bowlers simply had no answer to the power of Australia’s hitting – precisely 100 of their runs came in boundaries, compared to England’s 58.
‘Big Bash guys played fearlessly’
England stand-in captain Jos Buttler: “It was another poor performance from us, we didn’t quite soak up the pressure early on with the bat and then we never really kicked on.
“We never felt we had enough runs and the power of Australia proved too much. We haven’t performed to our abilities yet but now we look forward to New Zealand.”
Australia captain David Warner: “The pitch had a bit in it if you hit that good length and then our batsmen finished it off clinically.
“The guys from the Big Bash have been in tremendous form and are playing fearlessly.
“D’Arcy Short is a fantastic player and he showed he’s got a different gear, playing that anchor role.
“I love going over to New Zealand and we’re looking forward to that challenge.”