England gives old rival Australia 8-wicket thrashing at WCup

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Jos Buttler was near his brutal best as England thrashed old rival Australia by eight wickets with 50 balls to spare at the cricket T20 World Cup on Saturday.

Buttler smashed 71 not out from 32 balls with five thumping sixes and five fours as England’s batters quickly finished off what its bowlers had started by knocking the Aussies over for 125.

Buttler dismantled a vaunted Australian bowling attack, punishing both quick bowlers and spinners — and scattering the crowd with huge hits into the top tiers of the stadium — as England powered home in Dubai by making 126-2 in 11.4 overs.

“A pleasure to watch genius at work,” England teammate Liam Livingstone said of Buttler. “He’s the best hitter of a white ball in the world. A clinic of white-ball hitting.”

It was a clinical way also for Eoin Morgan’s England team to take the outright lead of Group 1 and re-emphasize its status as one of the favorites for the title.

Openers Buttler and Jason Roy put on a rapid 66 to start England’s chase. Jonny Bairstow was with Buttler to finish it off, and also didn’t hang around by launching two sixes in his 16 not out from 11 balls.

England lost Roy for 22 and Dawid Malan for 8 and barely noticed.

England’s bowlers, with Chris Jordan leading with 3-17, raced through Australia’s batting lineup at the start, with the Australians sliding to 21-4 in 6.1 overs. Australia rallied to see out its full 20 overs, but only just with Mitchell Starc the last man out off the final ball of the innings.

Jordan was one of three England seamers to subdue the Australian batters, with Chris Woakes taking 2-23 and Tymal Mills 2-45.

Australia’s top order fell apart in the first four overs after being put in to bat, with David Warner (1), Steve Smith (1) and Glenn Maxwell (6) all back in the dressing room.

Australia was 51-5 before Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins and Starc swung the bat and connected for five sixes between them to give themselves at least something to bowl at.

But it wasn’t nearly enough and England, with comprehensive wins over West Indies, Bangladesh and now Australia, appears headed for the knockout stages. Maybe there will also be a chance to put right a heart-wrenching loss to the West Indies in the final of the last T20 World Cup in 2016.

“The challenge for us is adapting to conditions away from home,” England captain Morgan said. “We did that really well in the first two games then a big test against a really strong Australian side.

“They are all hard (games), we treat everyone with the same respect.”

Australia, which belied its shaky recent form by winning its opening two games, is tied with South Africa for second place in Group 1 but behind the South Africans on run rate. Saturday’s hammering by England was Australia’s heaviest loss in terms of wickets at the World Cup.

South Africa beat Sri Lanka earlier on Saturday and only the top two teams from the group will reach the semifinals.

“We had to bowl them out, no issues there, but Buttler played a hell of an innings,” Australia captain Aaron Finch said. “We got off to a poor start, but a couple of days off to recharge and we’ll dust ourselves off.”

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