Mott and Buttler reach comeback point with England

When Jonny Bairstow spoke to the media on Friday he insisted that defeat to Australia would not derail England’s campaign. Those sitting in the Greenidge and Haynes Stand at that moment should have come with a health warning.

Australia scored 70 runs in a five-over spell, including seven sixes in the 13 overs in the innings.
England struggled to keep themselves in the game, but it proved to be a huge advantage. The loss leaves Jos Buttler’s side in a perilous position in their group, needing to beat Oman and Namibia well to progress to the Super 8 stage, while Scotland would want nothing more than to beat their rivals.

But, perhaps more importantly, it brings back familiar questions about the direction of this England white-ball team under captain Buttler and coach Matthew Mott. The experiment of Jaques in Bridgetown – bowling the second over by part-timer Will Jacks, which began with two sixes and conceded 22 runs – can now be added to the list of mistakes made during last year’s 50-over World Cup in India, including selection miscues in the opening games and the decision to bowl first in the Mumbai heat against South Africa. These decisions are easy to criticise, but at some stage their bold decisions must come to the fore. Buttler then said bowling Jaques, which marked the first time England have started with two spinners in T20s, was an “internal decision”, as Moeen Ali’s opener had conceded only three runs. But the part-time offspinner had only bowled two overs in T20s for England. Fast bowler Jofra Archer, who has dismissed Warner nine times in 19 overs across all formats, was waiting in the deep. Ask Warner or Head who they would prefer to face and there would be only one answer. It was a case of England overthinking things. The decision to leave out Reece Topley was another defence Buttler had to make in the post-match press conference, as the record of fast bowlers against left-handers like Warner and Head – an average of 19.8 across all T20s since the last World Cup in 2022 – is one of the best in the world. field towards the Beach Huts and Rum Punch on Carlisle Bay – Topley’s absence came across clearly. Announcing this squad, England men’s cricket managing director Rob Key openly backed Mott and Buttler, but also spoke about Topley’s importance to the team.

Six weeks later Topley found himself carrying drinks and unable to join the XI. After being described as “sluggish” by Mott in 10 overs bowled amid rain against Scotland, England’s fielding was again not up to the mark. Archer was the most obvious victim of Jonny Bairstow’s scathing glance and Adil Rashid’s stare when he failed to dive to stop Marcus Stoinis’ boundary. Adam Zampa, who later tied down England’s batsmen superbly with his leg-spin, had a scathing assessment of his opponents in the field. “I think they were under pressure and it showed,” he said. The England dressing room was said to be disappointed after the incident and they now have five days to reflect on the result. They hope the scene in Antigua – they take an hour’s flight from Barbados on Sunday – will change fortunes.

Even if they win both matches, a quirk of the fixture list means Australia and Scotland could go into the match in St Lucia on June 16, the final match of the group, knowing a close Australia win would knock England out. Of course there’s no denying the fact that England have been here before. They nearly went out of a group that included the West Indies and Ireland before they won the 2010 T20 World Cup on the same island. In their most recent triumph in 2022 they lost to the Irish in the group stage, but progressed on net run-rate before winning the title in Melbourne. Reaching the semi-finals from the Super 8s would be a relief. Failure to reach there would match the struggles of last autumn. Mott and Buttler have reached a point of no return. If the next week doesn’t go their way, it could be the end of the journey for one or both of them.