England were waiting to find out the seriousness of the injury to captain Eoin Morgan which ruled him out of the T20 in Melbourne, but stand-in skipper Jos Buttler hoped a change of scenery would help them revive their tri-series campaign when they cross the Tasman, and give them the chance of seeking revenge on Australia in the final.
Morgan picked up a groin strain at training on Friday, and Buttler was told on the morning of the match that he would take charge, with James Vince coming into the side. It was a tough day for Buttler and the team. Although he top-scored in England's laboured innings, Buttler couldn't find his usual timing during his 46 off 49 balls, and then watched as Australia hurtled to the target with more than five overs to spare, and finished their home season in style.
The result, which followed England's defeat in Hobart, leaves them in a straight shootout with New Zealand for a spot in the final at Eden Park on February 21, after Australia secured their place with a third straight victory. England play New Zealand twice next week, starting in Wellington on Tuesday, but it remained uncertain whether Morgan will have recovered in time. While it is not quite a must win at the Westpac Stadium, a defeat would leave England's progress out of their hands, with New Zealand also having a game in hand against Australia.
"The beauty of a tri-series is we still have a chance to make the final," Buttler said. "It will be a nice change of scene in New Zealand. We haven't showcased our ability as we can, and there are guys who are determined to come back strong.
"After a poor performance in Hobart, we were determined to show what we are capable of tonight, but we weren't able to do that. We didn't soak up the early pressure and lost wickets. The game plan was to back it up to the end and go well. I never got going and we were never able to get to a defendable score."
It was an unusually subdued innings from Buttler. He arrived when England had lost three wickets inside the first four overs, and nudged just above a run a ball early in his stay, but struggled to up the tempo against Ashton Agar, Marcus Stoinis and the slower-ball variations of AJ Tye. He managed one further boundary, an edge wide of Alex Carey, but could not provide the late onslaught.
"Losing three early poles, I felt the best way was to then to take some balls and kick on at the end, but that never really happened," he said. "I struggled, I was trying hard and it didn't manage to work. I was hoping to be better than a run-a-ball with five overs to go and then really kick on, but it never happened. I'll have to improve and look at where I went wrong."