England and Australia renew hostilities when the two nations meet at the 2021 ICC T20 Men’s World Cup on Saturday. The Ashes rivals are aiming to maintain unbeaten starts in the Super 12. Aaron Finch’s Australia have seen off South Africa and Sri Lanka, while Eoin Morgan and England overcame the West Indies and Bangladesh.
Moeen Ali and a ruthless bowling attack hold the key to England’s hopes. Meanwhile, Australia will rely on David Warner and Steve Smith dominating from the crease at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
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Ali’s form has helped England maintain one of the strongest bowling attacks in the competition, even without key players. England may be missing Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer and Sam Curran, but Ali is leading a new group also defined by Tymal Mills and Adil Rashid. Ali’s been the harbinger of doom for opponents in the powerplay and is on a run Australia will fear.
The 34-year-old took a pair of wickets to help skittle the Windies for 55. Ali followed up that special effort by claiming another two wickets against Bangladesh. There isn’t much Ali hasn’t been able to do when attacking the wicket.
His performances have been earning praise from former England internationals, including Darren Gough. He told i‘s Katherine Lucas how Ali has been smart enough to vary his game:
I was surprised he hasn’t played more. It’s always ‘can we fit him in with Rashid?’. If it were up to me, he’d have been playing all the time. I’m a massive fan of Moeen in all formats – terrific talent and a good leader as well.
The idea of Ali and Rashid gelling in the same team has been endorsed by the latter’s performances in the competition. He was sensational against the Windies, taking four wickets in just over two overs. While Rashid wasn’t as effective against Bangladesh, the leg-break specialist will challenge Australia’s ability to deal with spin. By contrast, Mills will offer a more direct threat after the pacer took a hat-trick of wickets during the victory over Bangladesh.
Australia will feel confident about surviving England’s bowlers after tallying 155 runs against Sri Lanka last time out. Warner was the star, hitting 65 off 42, including an impressive 10 fours. Finch completed a prolific opening partnership by belting a 37 from 23 balls. The skipper was eventually bowled by Wanindu Hasaranga, but Smith stepped up to the wicket and posted an unbeaten 28.
England’s innings will hinge on the efforts of Jason Roy. He clipped 61 from 38, finding the boundary eight times in the process to yield five fours and three sixes. Jos Buttler, Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow will ensure Morgan’s team has plenty of star power in front of the wicket.
There’s also the possibility of Liam Livingstone being something of a secret weapon if the skilled all-rounder can find his rhythm with the bat. Livingstone didn’t take to the crease against Bangladesh and managed only one run against the West Indies, but the 28-year-old is a clean striker with the technique to find the boundary.
Australia’s response will be all about how much speed Josh Hazlewood can generate with his right arm. He took two wickets to help beat South Africa, and he’s not the only pacer England batters will face. Mitchell Starc seized a pair of wickets and chucked 11 dots against Sri Lanka. The wild card in the attack is Adam Zampa, an accomplished leg-spinner who will look to rattle Roy and Buttler early.
Form usually counts for naught in a rivalry this intense, yet neither will want to give ground with a place in the semi-finals looming. There’s also the added incentive of gaining a psychological edge ahead of the Ashes.