Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick
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England 126 for 2 (Buttler 71*) beat Australia 125 (Finch 44, Jordan 3-17) by eight wickets
Never mind the Ashes, Australia's T20I team was reduced to rubble in Dubai, as England maintained their hot streak in the T20 World Cup Super 12s. Chris Woakes produced another incisive display of fast bowling in the powerplay before Jos Buttler did pretty much as he pleased during an innings of 71 from 32 balls. The chase of 125 was a formality, achieved with more than eight overs to spare.
If the game wasn't decided by the toss - teams batting second have now won 12 out of 14 Super 12 encounters at this World Cup - it effectively was by new-ball spells from Woakes, who finished with 2 for 23, and Chris Jordan (3 for 17). Australia limped to 21 for 3 at the end of the powerplay, and although they managed something of a recovery from 41 for 4 at halfway, their total looked severely under par.
Australia's lower order had in fact managed to plunder 50 from the last four overs of their innings, and the ball continued to fly to all parts as Buttler and Jason Roy got the England reply going. They raced to 66 for 0 from the first six overs - the highest powerplay score of the tournament so far - before Buttler and Jonny Bairstow finished the contest in a blaze of sixes, sending England clear at the top of Group 1 and to the brink of a semi-final spot.
Woakes bosses the powerplay (again)
In 2020, England's attack had a powerplay problem, managing 10 wickets in 11 innings at an average of 60.00. In this tournament, they have picked up 10 from three at an average of 7.90, to go with an economy of 4.38. Their opponents' scores after six overs have read: 31 for 4, 27 for 3 and now 21 for 3.
The return of Woakes, who did not play a T20I for almost six years between 2015 and June this year, has been a big factor in their increased potency. He struck with his second ball in this match, a sharp lifter finding David Warner's outside edge - a dismissal reminiscent the opener's early exit during the 2019 World Cup semi-final - and then pinned Glenn Maxwell dead in front during his second over. In between he claimed an acrobatic overhead catch to help remove Steven Smith.
An opening spell of 3-0-7-2 took Woakes' returns during the powerplay in the UAE to 4 for 29 from eight overs. With Jordan, bowling with the new ball for the first time at the tournament and picking up 1 for 6 from his two, England fully capitalised on bowling first on a slightly grassy surface and were able to dictate the pace of game from there on.
Shuffling the deck
England played an unchanged team for the third match running, but there was an immediate switch of approach with the ball, as Adil Rashid was preferred to Moeen Ali as the spinner to open the bowling. Although Warner took first strike, the match-up England were looking for was Rashid against Finch - the Australia captain came into this game having been dismissed seven times by legspin this year.
In the event, Rashid's exploratory over gave way to a diet of seam bowling, but he returned to dismiss Marcus Stoinis with the first ball of the seventh over. With Finch, who has a domineering record against offspin, batting through to the 18th over, Moeen wasn't used at all - but Liam Livingstone stepped in to deliver a full four-over allocation for the first time in T20Is. With Livingstone able to switch between leg- and offspin, he kept a lid on Australia during the middle overs, finishing as England's most economical bowler while deceiving Matthew Wade with a flighted delivery that tempted a mis-hit to long-on.
Early success meant Eoin Morgan could save Tymal Mills for the second half of the innings - and although he was expensive, finishing with 2 for 45 from his four overs, Australia had sustained too much damage to be able to mount an effective recovery as conditions for batting eased. Finch battled through before finally falling to an excellent Bairstow catch in the 19th over, 44 off 49 his slowest T20I innings of more than 14 balls.
England's chase was more of a saunter. Needing barely a run a ball, the openers quickly stamped their mark on proceedings. Roy charged Josh Hazlewood's first ball, swatting four through mid-on, and then creamed Pat Cummins into the stands in the third over - Australia had taken until the 17th before they managed to clear the ropes. Buttler did the same to Ashton Agar, brought in for this game as a specialist bowling option but soon on a hiding to nothing.
Roy fell to Adam Zampa's second ball after the powerplay, trapped lbw on review (one of the few things that went Finch's way). But Buttler responded by smashing 4-4-6-1-2-4 off Mitchell Starc and Zampa, bringing up a 25-ball half-century in the ninth over; soon it became a range-hitting exercise, with one of Buttler's blows measuring 105 metres. England needed 29 from 66 when Agar had Dawid Malan caught behind for 8, and the end came swiftly after, a third thumping win in a row for Morgan's side.
Never mind the Ashes, England have the T20 World Cup firmly in their sights.
Over 12 • ENG 126/2England won by 8 wickets (with 50 balls remaining)
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