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England vs Australia, T20 World Cup: History hangs heavy in air as old rivals meet again in Barbados

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Every sport thrives on rivalries, and the bad blood between competitors often becomes the lifeblood of the game.

Australia vs. England stands as one of the most ferocious international sporting rivalries on the planet. Its true fervour was vividly displayed in England’s exuberant celebrations following its 2005 Ashes victory and has continued to live on through the relentless debates on moral superiority that continue to arise whenever Australia prevails in the five-day format.

Against this backdrop, a new chapter in this enduring rivalry is set to be written at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Saturday, when the two teams clash in a Group B game at the T20 World Cup.

England bowler Mark Wood has already said that the meeting with Australia is “huge” after his team’s washout against Scotland on Tuesday.

The abandonment meant England and Scotland took a point each from the game. Defeat against Australia in Barbados would potentially make the final two games against Namibia and Oman a must-win for the defending champion. On the other hand, Australia’s 39-run win against Oman in Barbados wasn’t without its nervous moments.

The key matchup to watch is between Australian opener Travis Head and England’s pace duo Jofra Archer and Mark Wood.

Hot off a match-winning performance in the 50-over World Cup final and a scintillating Indian Premier League (IPL) campaign with Sunrisers Hyderabad, during which he struck 567 runs at 191.55, Head is fast becoming the key man for an Australia side searching for white-ball World Cup supremacy.

The key matchup to watch is between Australian opener Travis Head and England’s pace duo Jofra Archer and Mark Wood.

The key matchup to watch is between Australian opener Travis Head and England’s pace duo Jofra Archer and Mark Wood.
| Photo Credit:
AP

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The key matchup to watch is between Australian opener Travis Head and England’s pace duo Jofra Archer and Mark Wood.
| Photo Credit:
AP

Head’s ability to treat balls on stump-line and outside the stumps with equal disdain makes him dangerous. Because he tends to stay leg side of the ball, the English quicks could look to bowl full on a leg-stump line with protection at deep square and long on in the PowerPlay. With that line, the midwicket fielder will also become a catching option should Head mistime one off the inside edge. Change of pace while going full will also be an option.

Meanwhile, England has packed its side with power-hitters from one all the way down to eight. The makeup of the top three with Phil Salt opening and Will Jacks at No. 3, allows Jos Buttler to be watchful at the start before teeing off. Given the bevy of English right-handers, Australia will ponder whether it needs to include left-arm spinner Ashton Agar.

The weather forecast looks good for the upcoming game, with both teams hoping for ideal playing conditions as it is an afternoon start. The match will take place on a fresh pitch, widely considered the most favourable for batting out of all the available playing surfaces. “If someone gets in and gets going and utilises the wind, then yes, you can score big, but at the same time, if you’re canny enough and clever enough to protect those scoring areas and skillful enough to execute the skills, then you can restrict teams to lower scores,” Jonny Bairstow told the press on the eve of the match.

Australia faces a dilemma regarding its pace attack selection for the upcoming match. It rested Pat Cummins in the Oman game, and Mitchell Starc suffered leg cramps during his final over. However, captain Mitchell Marsh assured on Friday that both players are fit and available for selection. Therefore, while Cummins’ replacement Nathan Ellis’ skiddy style seemed to suit the Barbados pitch’s low bounce against Oman, he is likely to make away for Australia’s Test captain.

The two sides met here 14 years ago in the final of the 2010 World T20, which England won by seven wickets. So, history hangs heavy in the air at a newly refurbished Kensington Oval. A US $25 million government grant has transformed the venue, boasting upgraded facilities, floodlights, and a vibrant new party stand.

Who’s lighting up the ground this time? Saturday will tell.

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