England and Australia woke up on Friday morning knowing that if they took the field, one of them would almost certainly see their T20 World Cup hopes evaporate before the day was out, but in the end the key issue water evaporation. . Scheduled to kick off at 19:00, the match was eventually abandoned less than two hours later, allowing both sides to continue dreaming of a semi-final for at least a few days.
After the best part of four days of incessant rain, it always seemed like an opportunity where teams would have to deal less with losses than galoshes. But when the covers were pulled from the pitch at about 7pm and the groundskeepers set about a frantic half-hour of soaking and mopping, the prospect of cricket was in the air rather than the steady drizzle. Two field inspections had come and gone before that, minutes before the third was scheduled and with the ground still dangerously soft, the rain returned and all hope was over.
Despite the delays, both teams said they would rather play even a shortened five-over game than not play at all. “You want to play full games of cricket, but that’s part of what makes our game unique, what makes it great,” Jos Buttler said. “Australia against England at the MCG in a must-win World Cup game is as big as it gets in your career and no matter what the result, it’s something you want to experience. You don’t know how often these opportunities come around.”
Group One therefore remains wide open, with the match between Ireland and Afghanistan completed in the afternoon and all participating teams awarded one point. Seven of the 15 group games played – or played – all six teams are separated by a single point, with England second, behind New Zealand on clear pace and just ahead of Ireland, Australia, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka – who play the Kiwis in Sydney on Saturday, thankfully no rain forecast.
After this game, attention will shift to balmy Brisbane ahead of the decisive 48 hours. Ireland will play Australia on Monday, Afghanistan will play Sri Lanka on Tuesday and England will play New Zealand. Each side knows that winning all their remaining games is likely to see them through, although net run rate can be decisive. England have a slight advantage going into the final group match against Sri Lanka, at which point they will know exactly what they need to do to progress – if they have any chance at all, having been on the brink of elimination since Wednesday’s shock. defeat with Ireland.
“We are still in the competition and we know to some extent that we have our destiny in our own hands,” Buttler said. “There is still a lot of confidence in the group. We have some great players who are determined to right some wrongs from last night. That’s what World Cup cricket and knockout cricket is all about – these huge games and being able to play in them.”
The abandonments mean that of the five matches so far scheduled to be played in Melbourne, only one has gone ahead as planned, with one other match – between Ireland and England – achieving a result despite being shortened due to rain. Two more matches are scheduled in the city: the final Group 2 match between India and Zimbabwe on November 6 and the final itself a week later.
“The weather was so bad – from the moment it started raining against England it just didn’t stop,” Ireland’s Andrew Balbirnie said after their game was called off. “It’s so wet outside. You come to Australia thinking you won’t need a hoodie or a rain jacket, but it’s definitely different from when we got there three or four weeks ago.’
Although October is usually Melbourne’s wettest month, this spring the city – and much of Australia’s east coast – has been dealing with a strange confluence of weather phenomena: the Indian Ocean Dipole, the Southern Annular Mode and La Niña, when strong trade winds blow westward across the Pacific Ocean .
“We’ve been in a pretty wet period for a while in Victoria and right across eastern Australia – there’s been flooding from Queensland to Tasmania,” Christie Johnson, senior meteorologist at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, told the Guardian. “It’s quite common in the spring for many weather systems to come across Victoria, but this year is unusual by historical standards. These three climate drivers are combining to create a perfect storm for us.”
Meteorologists have been predicting an unusually wet spring for several months. But the nature of the rain that dogged the tournament was also unusual as Melbourne was drenched in drizzle for most of the last four days. “We tend to have more stop-start showers, potentially a little more thunderstorms, rather than steady rainfall,” Johnson said. “That’s more a feature of the tropical moisture that’s moving across Victoria.” It’s something you’d see more commonly over Queensland where there’s moisture in the air. We tend to have a drier climate and it’s unusual to get tropical moisture this far south.”
There is some frustration with the fact that there is a 53,000-capacity venue about three kilometers from the MCG that regularly hosts cricket and has a retractable roof, but Marvel Stadium has remained empty while it rains. “You can’t predict the weather,” Australian coach Andrew McDonald said, “but you know when it’s England against Australia there’s no better place to play than the MCG.”
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