Matthew Mott hopes Josh Hazlewood’s comments about England are ‘tongue in cheek’

Australia may have threatened to compromise the integrity of the T20 World Cup by trying to manipulate their Ashes rivals’ exit from the tournament, but England head coach Matthew Mott believes the inflammatory comments were the result of “a very good sense of humour”.

Seam bowler Josh Hazlewood put the boot in after Australia effectively sealed qualification with a crushing win over Namibia on Tuesday night, claiming he would be keen to nudge England out of the competition by any means necessary.

He floated the idea that Australia could “knock it around and drag it out” in the final group match against Scotland, giving an artificial boost to their opponents’ net run-rate and moving England towards the exit door.

But Mott, an Australian who coached Hazlewood during their time together at New South Wales, puts those comments down to mischief rather than malevolence.

Australia seamer Josh Hazlewood points to his shoulder during a training session
Australia bowler Josh Hazlewood suggested his side were keen to help nudge England out of the tournament (Mike Egerton/PA)

“I think I know Josh pretty well and I know his integrity. He’s got a very good sense of humour,” he said.

“I am hoping it was very much tongue in cheek. I actually don’t think it is ever going to play out. Having grown up in Australia, and the will to win every game, I am sure they will come to the fore. I am very much hoping it was an off hand remark by a really good bloke who is having fun.”

Hazlewood’s response has put Australia in a difficult position, essentially pitting them against the International Cricket Council’s rulebook.

Clause 2.11 of the code of conduct specifically mentions “inappropriate manipulation of a net run-rate” for “strategic or tactical reasons”.

As captain, Mitch Marsh, would be liable for any such offence and be liable for two suspension points – effectively a two-match ban in white-ball cricket.

While it is hard to be sure how to satisfy the burden of proof when asking due care and attention in a run chase becomes a deliberate go slow, Hazlewood’s indiscretion will have alerted match referee Jeff Crowe.

Mott was eager to move on from the sideshow, well aware that it would become an irrelevance should England fail to do their part. To have any chance of edging Scotland, they need to beat Oman handsomely in Antigua on Thursday and do the same to Namibia 48 hours later.

“That’s all we can do, regardless of any outside noise, qualification, run-rates. We’ve got to win this game,” he said.

“We’re going to prepare really well for that. If we get in a dominant position and can push hard we will but if we have to scrap and fight to get the two points we will as well.

Matthew Mott looks on as Reece Topley prepares to bowl in an England training session
Matthew Mott, left, will contemplate a recall for Reece Topley (right) (Bradley Collyer/PA)

“Hopefully there’s still a lot of cricket left (for us) and the challenge ahead is something we’re excited by. We’re not daunted by it, we’re excited. That’s genuine.”

England have named the same XI for both of their matches in the Caribbean but have Ben Duckett, Reece Topley, Sam Curran and Tom Hartley pushing from the outside.

Curran, player of the tournament when England won the title in Australia in 2022, could find himself drafted in for Chris Jordan. As a left-arm seamer he would add variety to the attack and his left-handedness would also allow the batting line-up more flexibility to access the ground’s crosswinds.

Duckett is also hopeful of a chance should selectors want to add a left-hander into an all right-hand dominant top seven, but he may need to wait his turn.