Momentum and confidence are somewhat related, but momentum is largely meaningless in professional sports. Indeed, winning is great, but there are instances when understanding where you went wrong is essential. Consider Aaron Finch’s direct post-game remarks in Canberra, when he attributed Australia’s eight-run loss to “sloppy” fielding, which put the 2-0 down going into Friday’s encounter against England.
Who knows where the momentum will be going today? It might be possible that Australia’s butter fingers would not get the clear-cut chances, and in the last match, they scored a crucial 92-run stand for the fifth wicket. Or Tim David will not lose the wicket as he did in the last match’s 18th over of the chase.
So the T20 World Cup is just a week away, and here we are with England’s rebooted white ball team crediting a win in the back-to-back series after a blank home summer. Australia seems to be in a scrambled position for its own readiness after a pair of untimely setbacks.
And yet, history is irrelevant, especially in the T20 format, as the Australians all too well know from their own exploits in the UAE a year ago. When that happened, they had a troubling string of losses going back five series and 18 months, including defeats to England, India, New Zealand, West Indies, and Bangladesh. Even then, they were beaten by an eight-wicket defeat in the group stages of the World Cup in Dubai thanks to a masterful performance by Jos Buttler. But what followed kind of ruined any concept of preparation.
Australia’s lineup for the Canberra loss was not dissimilar from the one they would like to field for their opening match against New Zealand on October 22. Even after this most recent loss, they wouldn’t look to make many personnel changes. Ideally, they’d like Glenn Maxwell to regain some of his previous forms and for their big three seamers, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, and Josh Hazlewood, to prove a little more incisive than their collective analyses of 2 for 110 in 12 overs.
In comparison, England still needs to make a few crucial choices. Specifically, the looming Ben Stokes question that permeates every bit of their build-up. His dismissal on Wednesday, a reckless heave at Adam Zampa in a match scenario that likely allowed him time to build into his innings, did little to allay the rising suspicions about his role. He has managed to muster a meager total of 17 runs from 20 balls over two innings.
But after that, he came back with an efficient performance in a rare new-ball role, followed by a first-ball breakthrough at the start of his second over, and by the time he had performed the evening’s most astounding athletic feat — a stunning one-handed boundary-save at long-off — his thirst for the action was once more apparent. It’s the proverbial “good issue to have,” isn’t it, if finding a home for a man like Stokes is your first priority.
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