Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Stoinis breaks Scotland hearts, England through to Super Eight

Finch on Australia's six drops: They were uncharacteristically sloppy (4:16)

Finch was impressed by some of Scotland's batters but also points out where they fell short (4:16)

Australia 186 for 5 (Head 68, Stoinis 59, Watt 2-34) beat Scotland 180 for 5 (McMullen 60, Berrington 42*, Maxwell 2-44) by five wickets

Scotland could almost touch a history-making moment. Australia's asking rate was approaching 13 going into the final seven overs of their chase in what, until then, had been an underwhelming performance. But Marcus Stoinis, with help from Travis Head and later Tim David, shattered their dreams and in turn left England breathing a sigh of relief in Antigua, the result securing their Super Eight berth in the T20 World Cup 2024.

Stoinis, who mixed deftness and power in another impressive performance in what is becoming an outstanding tournament for him, put it back in Australia's favour with a 25-ball half-century while Head turned on the afterburners after compiling a somewhat sedate 45-ball fifty with three sixes off consecutive legitimate deliveries.

Although both departed, Australia entered the last over needing just five but there was one final twist. With three needed off four balls, David was dropped at deep midwicket by Chris Sole and with that went Scotland's last hope. The next ball was sent into the stands.

For three-quarters of the contest, Scotland had been outstanding. Their platform was laid by a blistering display from Brandon McMullen on one of the better batting surfaces of the tournament so far. Australia, who shelled six chances in a poor fielding display, clawed it back in the second 10 overs but in their powerplay were held to 36 for 2 by some excellent bowling. However, ultimately the depth and power of their batting order was too much leaving a host of emotions across two islands.

Deftness and power from Stoinis

Australia could not get up or ahead of the asking rate through the first half of the innings. When Glenn Maxwell, who had struck one six over long-on, was defeated by a wonderful delivery from Mark Watt, which pitched on off stump and straightened, Scotland were buoyant and there was a sense that Australia could pay for being off the pace.

However, Stoinis got away from his first ball with the help of a misfield, square cutting one of Watt's 24-yard deliveries. So often known for sheer brute force, he then deftly reverse-swept Michael Leask from the first delivery of the next over and looked on his game. Still, the requirement had become a demanding 87 off 39 balls when Stoinis took down Leask with a reverse-hit six over point then another down the ground.

When Head slammed three sixes off Safyaan Sharif the tide had firmly turned; at one stage a series of 12 legitimate deliveries brought 46 runs. Sharif did strike back to have Head taken at long-off, but Australia had given themselves breathing room.

Scotland's Bazball

Having been put in, it took Scotland a couple of overs to size up conditions and midway through the third they were still to reach double figures. That changed when McMullen lofted Nathan Ellis stylishly over long off. Even better was to follow as he used his feet against Mitchell Starc and flayed him into the stands over cover.

When Adam Zampa was introduced he showed excellent footwork to send him for six, then drive through the off side against a shorter delivery, with another brace of sixes coming off Ashton Agar in the eighth over as he brought up a 26-ball fifty.

At the other end, George Munsey had laboured somewhat to 4 off 10 balls but then followed the lead of McMullen by taking on Glenn Maxwell's over inside the powerplay with 14 off the last three balls. He swept Maxwell for another six before dragging a wider delivery into the hands of deep midwicket next ball. From 92 for 1 after 8.5 overs, Scotland will look back with some regret that the remaining 11.1 overs only brought 88 runs. A large amount of the credit for that has to go to a pair of skillful death overs from Ellis who continued to impress.

Australia's hat-trick of drops

Australia had an uncharacteristically poor day in the field. None of the chances were simple, but in all they missed six catches - the most in a Men's T20 World Cup match according to ESPNcricinfo data. At one stage, they put down three in consecutive balls: Zampa palming Matthew Cross' pull over the fine leg rope, Mitchell Marsh spilling a low one at cover and then Matthew Wade being unable to take a glove down the leg side when Cross swept at Maxwell. Earlier, there had been two put down in Starc's second over when Marsh couldn't hold a chance above his head at mid-on and Head grassed a tough one at cover from McMullen.

Agar ends long wait

By the time the game ended, a lot had happened since Agar struck in the opening over of the contest to remove Michael Jones. He was playing his first T20I since the previous World Cup in October 2022 as Australia had one eye on potential match-ups in the Super Eight.

"Deep in a tournament, when the same grounds are being used a lot, we're starting to see some wickets that are starting to show a bit of fatigue in the West Indies," national selector George Bailey told reporters. "A lot of the guys we've got in the group have got a bunch of cricket behind them, either through the IPL most recently or have played quite a bit in this team.

"But Ash [Agar], just coming off his injuries and the way we've structured up when he has been available, he just hasn't been able to get much game time, as much as he'd probably like…just getting that opportunity in the middle to be able to put that into place, for Mitch to be able to navigate what it's like with a number of spinners in the team."

Australia ended up using 12 overs of spin with Agar, Maxwell and Zampa all bowling their full complement. They will be back in St Lucia to face India in their final Super Eight fixture. For a while it appeared Scotland would be joining them but that proved agonisingly out of reach.

Australia 2nd innings Partnerships

1st2DA WarnerTM Head
2nd32MR MarshTM Head
3rd26GJ MaxwellTM Head
4th80MP StoinisTM Head
5th15MP StoinisTH David
6th31MS WadeTH David

ICC Men's T20 World Cup

Super Eights, Group 1
Super Eights, Group 2
Group A
Group B
Group C
Group D