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Win over Australia would change narrative for England

Jofra Archer and Andrew Flintoff chat during training
England v Australia is live on BBC Test Match Special on BBC Sounds and Radio 5 Sports Extra on Saturday from 17:45 BST, with text commentary and in-play video clips on the BBC Sport website and app [Getty Images]

If one swallow doesn't make a summer, one washout against Scotland certainly does not ruin a T20 World Cup.

England admitted being below their best in the play that was possible on Tuesday and allowing Scotland's openers to rattle along to 90-0 in 10 overs hardly showed early form of champions.

But the nature of this tournament means if England lose to Australia on Saturday evening there is a very plausible series of results that would still send them through to the Super 8s.

It is not ideal - and would be precarious with the Caribbean rainy season a factor - but not the end of the world.

You can also argue that England are better with their backs against the wall.

They won their first T20 World Cup at the Kensington Oval in Barbados, the venue for their latest meeting with Australia, in 2010. Earlier in that tournament they were beaten by West Indies and only scraped through the first group stage courtesy of net run-rate.

When they won this title again in 2022, the last edition of the tournament, England were beaten in the group stage by Ireland.

Even their famous 50-over win of 2019 had the group stage wobbles against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia which left them needing to win four straight games to win the title.

When England have breezed through the group stages, in the 2017 Champions Trophy or 2021 T20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates, they have come unstuck in the semi-finals.

But, despite all of that, there remains a feeling that Saturday is a crucial moment, as much for changing the feeling around this whole white-ball set-up.

Rightly or wrongly, and no matter how much Jos Buttler wants to move on from it, their struggles in India at the 50-over World Cup last year hang over this side.

The rain in England and then Barbados, plus cricket’s franchise-heavy calendar, means Buttler’s side have only played 10 completed white-ball matches in almost seven months since India.

They remain relaxed off the field.

Jofra Archer took Phil Salt to his family home to see his dogs and two pet parrots on Thursday before Harry Brook trained in a Hawaiian shirt as the loser of England's football warm-up game.

A win against their oldest cricketing rivals would allow everyone to breathe a little easier again.

"It'll be good for momentum, it'll be good for confidence," England batter Jonny Bairstow said about the prospect of a win in Bridgetown.

"But at the same time, if that doesn't happen, then it's not a derailer to the group."

Of course Bairstow's history with Australia is long and storied.

Part of Andrew Strauss' side that crumbled in the 2013-14 Ashes and a series winner in the 2015 return, he was at the eye of the storm last summer when Alex Carey's stumping dismissed him at Lord's.

Harry Brook
England trained at Winward Cricket Club on Thursday and then at the Kensington Oval on Friday [Getty Images]

That controversial dismissal helped Australia take a 2-0 lead, only for a charged-up England to come back to level the series across the remaining three Tests.

The stumping row has been brought back into focus by the recent release of the Australia’s fly-on-the-wall documentary covering the series.

In one episode Australia players, including T20 captain Mitchell Marsh, freely recall how they tried to hide their sniggers when sitting across from a seething Bairstow in the Lord's dining room.

"I've not seen any of it to be quite honest with you," Bairstow said bluntly. "I've got other things that I watch on TV.

"The impact it had on us as a side was actually a very positive effect and you can make your own assumptions as to what effect it had on Australia…"

Bairstow's subtlety was not missed.

England have a full squad to pick from with the only debate again in the bowling attack - a choice between Reece Topley and Mark Wood.

The hierarchy would want to keep consistency in their much-discussed search for "role clarity" but Topley's record against left-handers with the new ball - he averages 19.8 against left-handed batters in the powerplay since the last World Cup, while Australia have David Warner and Travis Head as their top two - may be too tempting to resist.

Marsh suggested on Friday his Test counterpart Pat Cummins will make his first appearance of the tournament against England.

Cummins was rested for their opening win against Oman, whose already tight turnaround after the Indian Premier League was complicated further by flight delays.

Left-arm quick Mitchell Starc hobbled off in his final over against Oman but Australia insist the issue was only cramp. He bowled at practice on Friday morning.

Defeat by Australia in Ahmedabad in November officially ended England’s reign as 50-over world champions.

Another loss on Saturday would not be terminal to their T20 title defence but a momentum-boosting win would change the whole narrative.

David Warner speaks to Jos Buttler at Kensington Oval
Saturday's meeting could be England's final match against David Warner (centre), who is set to retire from international duty after this tournament [Getty Images]