First Twenty20, Ageas Bowl, Southampton
England 162-7 (20 overs): Malan 66 (43) Buttler 44 (29); K Richardson 2-13, Maxwell 2-14
Australia 160-6 (20 overs): Warner 58 (47), Finch 46 (32)
England won by two runs

England pulled off a remarkable fightback to beat Australia by two runs in a thrilling first Twenty20 at the Ageas Bowl.

Chasing 163, Australia were cruising to victory, needing just 39 from 38 balls with nine wickets remaining.

But the wicket of Steve Smith, one of two wickets to fall in Adil Rashid’s final over, sparked a collapse of 4-9 in 14 deliveries.

Ashton Agar was run out off the final ball of the penultimate over, leaving the tourists needing 15 from the final six balls.

Marcus Stoinis hit a six from the second delivery of Tom Curran’s over but still needed five from the final ball. Curran perfectly executed a yorker to see England take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.

England had earlier been grateful for 66 from Dawid Malan and 44 from Jos Buttler in their underwhelming 162-7.

The second match at the same ground is on Sunday, live on BBC One from 13:50 BST.

England capitalise as Australia implode

England’s bowling improved significantly from the beginning of the Australia innings but they were only able to take victory thanks to an implosion by the tourists.

Opener David Warner and Aaron Finch plundered the bowling to begin with. putting on 98 as Mark Wood and Jofra Archer bowled too short – the batsmen repeatedly hitting fours square off the back foot.

Even when Finch hit Archer to long-off to fall for 46, Smith looked comfortable. He pulled his first ball – a 94mph delivery from Wood – for four.

What followed was remarkable. Smith top-edged a sweep off Rashid when on 18 and Maxwell hit the final ball of the leg-spinner’s spell to extra cover – an error which proved crucial.

Warner departed for 56 two balls later – bowled off his pads by Archer – and in the following over Alex Carey was bowled by a fast delivery from Wood.

The wickets fell and runs dried up. There was not a boundary hit after a Smith six in the 14th over until Stoinis’ big hit over extra cover with five balls left.

Stoinis had attempted to play himself in, backing himself to hit the required runs from the final over. He cleared the ropes once but also missed two other deliveries trying to power the ball away. Curran held his nerve where the Australia all-rounder did not.

This was Australia’s first competitive match for almost six months because of the coronavirus pandemic, one mitigating factor.

Malan proves his worth again

England’s total did not look enough at halfway, never mind when Warner and Finch were were seemingly racing to victory.

Buttler had given England a quick start, seven boundaries coming in his 29-ball knock, including two straight sixes off spinner Ashton Agar in a second over that went for 16 runs.

England were 64-1 when Buttler hit leg-spinner Adam Zampa to deep mid-wicket and afterwards had a collapse of their own. Eoin Morgan’s side lost 5-60 as canny Australia bowling, largely spin and slower balls, proved effective.

It was left to Malan, retained in his position at number three, to muster a testing score for the hosts.

As wickets fell around him he was calm. He batted with relative composure until launching an attack against Zampa in the 18th over. He hit two sixes – one over mid-wicket and one over long-off – in an over that cost 22 and boosted England’s failing innings.

It was Malan’s eighth score of 50 or more in 14 T20 internationals.

England still have players to come back – Jason Roy and Ben Stokes were missing from this game – but Malan, who made a match-winning knock in the second T20 against Pakistan, is fast making himself undroppable.

‘Our bowlers bailed us out’ – what they said

England captain Eoin Morgan: “We didn’t bat particularly well tonight – Dawid and Jos did. We should have got more runs.

“Our bowlers bailed us out. The bowlers really came good in the last eight overs. I’m delighted the guys showed belief and courage to try to take wickets. It was great that we stuck to our guns.

“Tom Curran followed on from a fantastic winter. It’s great to see him calm in execution in the past few overs.”

England bowler Tom Curran: “That’s why we train. You want to be given the ball in the tough moments and try to stand up when the team needs you. I’m really pleased to get over the line.

“Morgan is unbelievable. He’s been the world’s best captain for a number of years. He’s calm. He backs us. He’s class.”

Australia captain Aaron Finch: “We knew England would keep coming hard and we probably struggled to find the boundary in that 12 to 18-over mark. That’s something to work on.

“I would probably be more critical of myself and Davey, who got us off to a good start but couldn’t go on to make the match-winning contribution.”

Man of the match Dawid Malan: “I don’t know what the secret is, but it’s working so far.

“This white-ball team has been the strongest England have ever had. I don’t know where I slot in.”

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