T20 World Cup: England’s abandoned game against Australia was an EMBARRASSMENT for the ICC

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The integrity of the Twenty20 World Cup was under threat on Friday after a third successive Melbourne wash-out left England’s hopes on a knife edge.

The abandonment of the winner takes all clash between cricket’s oldest rivals, which followed two other MCG wash-outs on Friday and on Wednesday, was an embarrassment for the ICC who are staging this showpiece event in one of Australia’s rainiest months.

And, with more wet weather forecast over the next two weeks and the La Nina weather pattern compounding the situation, what should be one of the biggest tournaments in world cricket is in danger of descending into farce.

The integrity of the Twenty20 World Cup was under threat on Friday after more bad weather

Melbourne on Friday was wetter and colder than Inverness and Aberdeen, ruining what should have been a huge occasion at a packed MCG, with both England and Australia knowing defeat would leave them all but eliminated.

The mouth-watering prospect of the big two slugging it out was always in jeopardy, with more rain falling in Melbourne over the last two days than is usually the case for the whole of October and the MCG outfield saturated since Wednesday.

It was then that England lost to Ireland on the DLS scoring method when their run-chase was curtailed by the elements and the second half of the double header between New Zealand and Afghanistan was then completely rained off.

England's must-win match against Australia was abandoned after rain hit Melbourne

England’s must-win match against Australia was abandoned after rain hit Melbourne

The outcome means England can afford no further slip ups if they're to get out of Group 1

The outcome means England can afford no further slip ups if they’re to get out of Group 1

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The same thing happened to Friday’s first match between Ireland and Afghanistan but, tantalisingly, the rain stopped around the scheduled start time for England and Australia and there was brief hope a shortened match could take place.

Yet it soon became clear it would be dangerous to play in such wet conditions and we had to go through the farce of numerous inspections when it was obvious neither the teams nor the officials wanted to risk injury and the jeopardy of a five-over game.

The experienced Aleem Dar, fourth official on the night, took the lead over standing umpires Chris Brown and Joel Wilson and his body language made it clear he never wanted a game to take place from the start.

‘The umpires had some big concerns and I think rightly so because the outfield was very wet and there were some areas in the 30-yard circle that were not fit to play,’ said England captain Jos Buttler after rain returned and the game was finally called off at 8.50pm local time. ‘As much as we all want to play it has to be safe and it certainly wasn’t that.’

Afghanistan and Ireland suffered the same fate earlier in the day, with their game at the MCG

Afghanistan and Ireland suffered the same fate earlier in the day, with their game at the MCG

His Australian counterpart Aaron Finch concurred, saying: ‘The outfield has taken a drenching and was as wet as I’ve ever seen it. It’s about player safety. We saw one of the Zimbabweans go down the other day and running out there would have been a real issue.’

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The lack of cricket has at least led to the tightest of Group One tables in this Super 12 stage, with only one point separating the six teams. And it means England can afford no further slip ups and are relying on other results to secure their passage to the last four.

Simply, they must beat New Zealand in Brisbane on Tuesday and Sri Lanka in Sydney next Saturday and then hope their net run-rate is good enough for them to progress.

But England could have a significant advantage in that they play last in the group, so they might know exactly what they have to do against Sri Lanka to qualify.

‘It could work in our favour but to make use of that we need to win the game against New Zealand,’ said Buttler. ‘So we’ll travel up to Brisbane and get everyone rested and ready to go. There’s a lot of frustration tonight because we wanted to put right the defeat by Ireland. But common sense prevailed and the right call was made.’

It is currently colder in Melbourne than Aberdeen and the ICC has to take responsibility

It is currently colder in Melbourne than Aberdeen and the ICC has to take responsibility

The fear is that the weather will ruin any such cricketing scenarios. The forecast is bad for Brisbane on Tuesday while Sydney is having almost as wet a Spring as Melbourne.

The ICC in their wisdom decided to hold this World Cup in Australia in October, a month when only six international matches have ever previously been staged here, in 2014.

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It was originally scheduled for 2020 but was put back by the pandemic and is taking place now rather than in summer mainly because Australia are committed to touring India in February, the month when the 2015 World Cup was held here in glorious weather.

The nature of the weather means England could be knocked out through no fault of their own

The nature of the weather means England could be knocked out through no fault of their own

The short, sharp nature of the tournament means that reserve days in the group stages would have led to a logistical nightmare but at least an extra day has been put into the calendar for the semi-finals in Adelaide and Sydney and the final back in Melbourne.

‘It’s tough,’ said Buttler. ‘Afghanistan for instance have had two games washed out in a tournament where you potentially only play five games.

‘It’s naturally frustrating for all of us. Is it something you can look at and would you have to elongate the tournament too much if you changed it? I don’t know.

‘It’s quite a ruthless format which is fun and I think we all know that and accept it but if you then have multiple games affected by the weather it doesn’t give you as true a reflection of how you’d hope the tournament would turn out.’

That is the danger now and it is one that could easily leave England, Australia or any other big nation knocked out through no fault of their own. And that cannot be good for the health of the international game.

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