England's road to T20 World Cup semi-finals: Sixes, hat-tricks and anxious waits

24 June 2024, 10:20 | Updated: 24 June 2024, 18:48

After beginning their T20 World Cup title defence with a bit of a whimper in Barbados, England were ruthless at the same venue on Sunday to secure a spot in the semi-finals in style.

The misfields and bowling blunders from their opener against Scotland on June 4 were nowhere to be seen against USA as Jos Buttler's side routed their opponents by 10 wickets.

England picked up five wickets in six balls - four of them for Barbados-born seamer Chris Jordan - before Buttler smashed five sixes in six balls to power his team to a target of 116 in 9.4 overs.

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It really was a breeze for England but their route to the last four has been rocky, with rain, mistakes and fine cricket from Scotland leaving them on the brink of an early exit at times.

Here we chart their up-and-down tournament, with Buttler's boys now just two wins away from becoming the first side to successfully defend the Men's T20 World Cup…

Vs Scotland - match abandoned (Barbados)

With the rain winning out in Bridgetown earlier this month, talk quickly turned to whether the washout against Scotland was one point gained for England or one point lost.

They may very well have chased down a DLS-adjusted target of 109 in 10 overs with the advantage of a wet ball and had they done so - and following results remained the same - they would have qualified for the Super 8s without needing to rely on net run-rate.

But they may also have stumbled needing 10.9 runs an over from the off and had that happened they would have suffered a second first-round exit in as many World Cups, which would surely have left Buttler and coach Matthew Mott scrambling to save their jobs.

England were not awful against Scotland but they were sloppy, with errors in the field from Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone followed by a Mark Wood wicket chalked off for a no-ball as Scotland plundered 90-0 from their 10 overs through George Munsey and Michael Jones.

Things would get worse before they would get better for England…

Vs Australia - lost to Australia by 36 runs (Barbados)

If England were poor in the first 10 overs against Scotland, then they had a shocker in the first five against Australia, with left-handed opening pair David Warner and Travis Head pummelling 70 runs in that period as they took advantage of the short leg-side boundary.

Warner and Head cracked part-time spinner Will Jacks for 22 in the second over - that England experiment spectacularly backfiring - before doing likewise to Mark Wood in the fourth as Wood persevered with pace-on deliveries.

England finally realised taking pace off was key but that lightbulb moment came too late, with Australia piling on 201-7. Buttler's men began their chase brightly enough - the skipper and Phil Salt putting on 73 in seven overs - only to rather crumple after that as they were limited to 165-6 amid some wily bowling.

Put simply, England let Australia score too many runs.

Vs Oman - won by eight wickets (Antigua)

With Scotland recording comfortable victories over Namibia and Oman since the England rain-off, the defending champions knew they not only needed to win but win well to leapfrog their rivals on net-run rate. They achieved both while blowing away Oman.

The associate nation were rolled for 47 in 13.2 overs - the fourth-lowest score in all Men's T20 World Cups - as they were unable to deal with the pace of Jofra Archer and Wood and spin of Adil Rashid. Shoaib Khan was the only Oman player to make double figures.

Phil Salt reached double figures in two balls, cracking successive sixes at the start of the reply and while he was then cleaned up, England sprinted home in just 19 deliveries to propel their NRR above Scotland's.

Buttler thumped five boundaries in an over - not for the last time in the tournament - as his side completed the quickest chase in World Cup history. Back on track.

Vs Namibia - won by 41 runs on DLS (Antigua)

England needed victory over Namibia and for Scotland to lose to Australia to make the Super 8s. Both of those things happened but, boy, were there some anxious moments. First due to the rain and then down to Scotland running Australia close.

The wet weather in Antigua was 45 minutes away from wiping out England vs Namibia and dumping Buttler's team out of the competition but it relented in time for a 10-over-a-side contest to take place, one in which England rallied from losing Buttler and Salt early to post 122-5 - Harry Brook top-scoring with 47 not out off 20 balls - and then restricting Namibia to 84-3.

Focus then turned to St Lucia hours later, where Scotland racked up 180-5 - the highest T20I total by an associate nation against Australia - and then left Mitchell Marsh's men needing 89 from 42 balls. Scotland could smell the Super 8s, England were fretting.

However, Head (68), Marcus Stoinis (59) and Tim David (24no) rallied Australia, rescued England and sank Scotland, with Scotland's Chris Sole left to rue dropping David with three runs required in the final over as Australia edged home with two deliveries so spare.

Vs West Indies - won by eight wickets (St Lucia)

England started the Super 8s with their best performance of the tournament, dispatching a strong side - the home side - to reaffirm their status as title contenders.

With the ball, Archer conceded just four runs and took the wicket of set-batter Nicholas Pooran in the 16th over before Rashid shipped only two runs and removed Andre Russell in the 17th as England held West Indies to 180-4 in Gros Islet.

With the bat, Salt then smashed an unbeaten 87 from 47 balls, including six boundaries in Romario Shepherd's 30-run 16th over, as England cantered home with 15 deliveries to spare.

Jonny Bairstow (48no off 26) reignited an innings that had stalled somewhat once Buttler was dismissed, with Salt then taking over as he smoked Shepherd to or over the fence.

Vs South Africa - lost by seven runs (St Lucia)

Similar to the defeat to Australia earlier in the competition, England's loss to South Africa was largely down to their opponents enjoying the better of the powerplay. Quinton de Kock (65 off 38) pushing the Proteas to 63-0 in their first six overs, with England only making 41-1 in theirs.

Brook (53 off 37) and Liam Livingstone (33 off 17) cracked 78 from 42 balls in partnership from 61-4 to revive England's pursuit of 164, trimming the requirement to 25 from 18 balls and perhaps leaving their side favourite, only for South Africa's death bowlers Kagiso Rabada, Marco Jansen and Anrich Nortje to concede just 17 runs combined from that point.

Once again, the pressure was on England…

Vs USA - won by 10 wickets (Barbados)

That pressure was very much taken off, however, as England dismantled USA back in Bridgetown, swelling their net run-rate to such a degree that they nailed a semi-final place before the final group game between West Indies and South Africa had played out.

USA were rolled for 115 as Jordan bagged England men's first T20 international hat-trick and a cracking diving catch from Moen handed Sam Curran - a mid-tournament replacement for Jacks in the XI - a 50th T20I wicket, before Buttler (83no off 38) hammered his team into the last four.

If one thing had been missing for England in this tournament it was a knock of real substance from their skipper but he duly provided one. An early six shattered a solar panel while he then shattered USA spinner Harmeet Singh's figures with five sixes in a 32-run over.

Watch the T20 World Cup semi-finals live on Sky Sports Cricket on Thursday. The first game is at 1.30am, with the second at 3.30pm.

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