If you wish for something hard enough, according to some self-help books based upon little more than the songwriting of Pinocchio, it just might come true. So went the script in the T20 World Cup, but the wrong way for Australia: a team relying on a Test configuration that was undone at the start by England’s Test‑style bowling.
When facing them there is a range of T20 options to consider. The ripping leg spin of Adil Rashid, who opened proceedings in Dubai and bowled three dot balls in a first over that went for six runs. The left-arm variety of Tymal Mills, who can peak at the speeds that get you pulled over on the motorway or drop back to the pace of a golf cart on the fairway. The fizzing straight-breaks of Liam Livingstone, who went for 15 runs from four overs. Or the loopier variety of Moeen Ali, who was not used but could have been at any moment.
For all of that, the damage was done to Australia in the early exchanges by the red-ball stalwart Chris Woakes, who was left out of England’s 20-over calculations for six years until earlier this year, and the mimicking of his line and length by Chris Jordan.
David Warner had clicked back into form with 65 against Sri Lanka on Thursday, but the right‑armer Woakes hit a hard length with a line going across the left-hander, who pushed at it and gave up an edge to the Warwickshire Wizard you would expect to see on morning one of a five-day contest at Edgbaston.
That was the second over of the match, when Australia had seven runs on the board. Make that eight runs in the third over when Steve Smith played a pull shot against a Jordan delivery that was not quite short enough, getting more toe than middle and hanging in the air wide of mid-on. Another fielder might have let it drop away for a single, but Woakes was in that position: back-pedalling, launching, and claiming the catch in an outstretched right hand that implausibly clung on.
Australia had changed their side, bringing in the left-arm spinner Ashton Agar down the order in the place of first drop Mitchell Marsh, which meant Glenn Maxwell was sent in against pace during the Powerplay rather than coming in later against spin, something that had worked so well in the recent Indian Premier League.
A few calm moments with Maxwell working two runs here and there came to an end when Woakes decked a ball inwards towards the right-hander, hitting him on the knee roll and surviving a video review that showed it hitting leg stump.
Australia were 15 for three after 23 balls and Woakes would send down another blameless over for two for seven after his first three.
That was pretty much all she wrote for Australia, who ended the Powerplay 21 for three, then immediately lost Marcus Stoinis lbw to a Rashid googly to go four wickets down. You could tell how dominant England’s position was in the match by the fact that Rashid’s overs were exhausted by the 13th over for his one for 19, while Livingstone bowled his four overs in a row without being attacked aside from one Matthew Wade drive that landed in the hands of long-on with the batsman on 18.
Rarely would you see a match between the top two sides in a World Cup group that was over so early. But while Agar picked up a couple of sixes to make Woakes finish with two for 23, and while opener Aaron Finch batted until the 19th over for a spluttering 44 from 49, and while Pat Cummins hit two sixes from Mills from his three balls faced, it was never going to be enough.
The target was 126 against a team that would have some chance of chasing twice that many.
Jos Buttler hit the joint-fastest fifty of the tournament from 25 balls, going on to 70 not out from 31 as the target was wiped away inside 12 overs.
The top two teams in Group 1 at the World Cup narrowed decisively to the top one, with England three wins from three with two to play. Australia will come up against group strugglers Bangladesh and West Indies, but after this wipeout, belief in their approach will be hard to muster.
“The Australians, never playing as a group, and expecting to turn things on against world-class teams – that’s a question that I’ve been asking for the last 10 or 12 years. It doesn’t make sense,” said the country’s former T20 champion Shane Watson on commentary.
“When you come against a team that has every base covered, like England, that’s when teams do get exposed.”
On this exhibition, there was no room to disagree.