Matthew Mott hopes Josh Hazlewood’s run-rate comments were ‘tongue-in-cheek’

Matthew Mott, England’s head coach, says he hopes that Josh Hazlewood was joking about the prospect of Australia manipulating an early exit for the T20 World Cup defending champions, but admits his team can do little else but focus on victory against Oman on Thursday and hope the ongoing debate about run-rate calculations ends up falling in their favour.
Even England’s own back-to-back victories over Oman and Namibia may not be sufficient to overturn their sizeable NRR deficit to the Scots – a point which Hazlewood highlighted when he suggested that Australia could be tempted to “knock it around and drag it out” when they themselves face Scotland in Group B’s final match in Antigua on Sunday.
Such a tactic would echo Steve Waugh’s infamous go-slow against West Indies at the 1999 World Cup – when the target for elimination on that occasion had been New Zealand – but it would come with the risk of a two-match ban for their current captain, Mitchell Marsh, if Australia were deemed by the umpires to have contravened Article 2.11 of the ICC’s code of conduct, which pertains to the “inappropriate strategic or tactical” manipulation of matches.

But Mott, who coached Hazlewood during his time at New South Wales, played down the comments as an example of his “tongue-in-cheek” sense of humour.

“I think I know Josh pretty well and I know his integrity,” Mott said. “He has got a very good sense of humour and I am hoping it was very much tongue-in-cheek. I actually don’t think it is ever going to play out. Having grown up in Australia, and the will to win every game, I am sure they will come to the fore. I am very much hoping it was an offhand remark by a really good bloke who is having fun.”

Either way, the potential for a run-rate rumpus is the sort of distraction that England could do without, given their lack of fluency in the tournament to date. Even before the Scotland match was abandoned, they had been notably off the pace with the ball in conceding 90 wicketless runs in ten overs, and the pressure to perform to the standard expected of defending champions is ramping up again, especially in light of their grim display in their 50-over defence last year.

“Regardless of any outside noise about qualification, run-rates, all that sort of stuff, essentially, we’ve got to win this game and we’ve spoken a lot about that,” Mott said. “We’ve played good T20 cricket for a while now. It didn’t quite come off against Australia last game but I think we’ve got our structure in place, we’re really confident. Those who saw us train yesterday, you can see a buoyant group, up and about, that’s ready for the challenge ahead.”

To offset any run-rate shenanigans, England need to beat Oman and Namibia by a combined margin of 117 runs (or the equivalent when chasing), thereby hauling their net run-rate above Scotland’s, so that only a surprise defeat of Australia can prevent them from progressing. But first things first, England must defeat a team that Scotland themselves saw off with 41 balls to spare in a pointedly fast finish in Antigua on Sunday.

“We’re treating this game with Oman in isolation,” Mott said. “They’ve got our full attention. If we get into a position where we’re in a dominant position and can push hard, we will. If we have to scrap and fight and get the two points, we will as well. So, we’ll just keep an open mind, as we always will.

“But essentially, we want to play that brand of cricket. I think we had glimpses of it the other day. I thought we started well with the bat, but to get a full performance in is really important. Get that on-field confidence. I think we’re really close, but obviously it’s been a bit of a disjointed tournament so far.”

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