Australia v England washed out as rain strikes Twenty20 World Cup again | T20 World Cup 2022

England and Australia awoke on Friday morning in the knowledge that if they took the field one of them would almost certainly see their T20 World Cup hopes evaporate before the day was out, but in the end it was the evaporation of water that became the key issue. Scheduled to begin at 7pm the match was eventually abandoned a little under two hours later, allowing both sides to continue dreaming of the semi-finals for a few more days at least.

After the best part of four days’ constant rainfall it always felt like an occasion when the teams would be less likely to have to deal with losses than galoshes. But when the covers were peeled off the pitch at about 7pm and the groundskeepers embarked on a frenzied half-hour of soaking and mopping there was the prospect of cricket, rather than incessant drizzle, in the air. Two pitch inspections came and went before, a few minutes before a scheduled third and with the ground still dangerously soft, the rain returned and all hope ended.

Despite their stays of execution, both teams said they would have preferred to play even an abbreviated five-over-a-side game than not at all. “You want to play full games of cricket, but that’s part of what makes our game unique, what makes it great,” Jos Buttler said. “Australia against England at the MCG in a must-win World Cup match is as big as it gets in your career and no matter what the result was going to be, it’s something you want to experience. You don’t know how often those kind of opportunities will come around.”

So Group One remains completely open, with the match between Ireland and Afghanistan abandoned in the afternoon and all teams involved awarded one point. With seven of the group’s 15 games played – or abandoned – all six teams are separated by a single point, with England second, behind New Zealand on net run rate and just ahead of Ireland, Australia, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka – who play the Kiwis in Sydney on Saturday, mercifully with no rain forecast.

After that game attention will move to balmy Brisbane before a crucial 48 hours. Ireland are scheduled to play Australia on Monday, while on Tuesday Afghanistan play Sri Lanka and England face New Zealand. Every side knows that victories in all their remaining games will probably see them through, though net run rate could be crucial. England have the slight advantage of contesting the group’s final match, against Sri Lanka, at which point they will know precisely what they must do to progress – if indeed they still have a chance at all, having stood on the brink of elimination since Wednesday’s shock defeat to Ireland.

“We are still in the competition and know, to a certain degree, we have our destiny in our own hands,” Buttler said. “There is still lots of confidence in the group. We have some great players who are determined to right some wrongs from the other night. This is what World Cup cricket and knockout cricket is about – these huge games and being able to perform in them.”

The abandonments mean that of the five matches so far scheduled to be played in Melbourne only one has gone ahead as planned, with one other game – between Ireland and England – reaching a result despite being abbreviated by rain. Two more matches are planned for the city: the final game in Group Two between India and Zimbabwe on 6 November, and the final itself a week later.

“The weather has just been so bad – since it started raining in the England game it just hasn’t stopped,” said Ireland’s Andrew Balbirnie after their game was called off. “It’s just so wet out there. You come to Australia thinking you won’t need a hoodie or a rain jacket, but it’s certainly been different since we arrived three or four weeks ago.”

Captains Aaron Finch and Jos Buttler survey the lack of action in Melbourne. Photograph: Daniel Pockett/ICC/Getty Images

Though October is normally the wettest month in Melbourne, this spring the city – and much of the east coast of Australia – has been dealing with a freak confluence of meteorological phenomena: the Indian Ocean Dipole, the Southern Annular Mode, and La Niña, when strong trade winds blow west across the Pacific Ocean.

“We have been in a pretty wet period for a while in Victoria and right along Eastern Australia – there’s been flooding from Queensland to Tasmania,” Christie Johnson, a senior meteorologist at the Australian Bureau of Meteorology, told the Guardian. “It’s quite common in spring to get a lot of weather systems coming through Victoria, but this year is unusual by historical standards. The three climate drivers together are combining to give us the perfect storm.”

Meteorologists have been forecasting an unusually wet spring for several months. But the nature of the rain that has dogged the tournament has also been unusual, with Melbourne being doused in drizzle for most of the last four days. “We tend to get more stop-start showers, potentially a bit more thunderstormy, rather than constant rainfall,” Johnson said. “That’s more a feature of the tropical moisture being dragged down over Victoria. It’s something you would more commonly see over Queensland where there’s moisture in the air. We tend to have a drier climate, and it’s unusual to get the tropical moisture coming this far south.”

There is some frustration in the fact that about three kilometres from the MCG there is a 53,000-capacity venue that regularly hosts cricket and has a retractable roof, but the Marvel Stadium has stood empty while the rain falls. “You can’t predict the weather,” said the Australia coach, Andrew McDonald, “but what you do know is that when it’s England v Australia there’s no better place to be playing than the MCG.”

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