Australia can deliver the final blow to old enemy England’s dismal ICC World Cup 2023 campaign on Saturday with memories of their acrimonious Ashes series still fresh.
Jos Buttler’s defending champions sit rock bottom of the 10-nation group with one win in six games, requiring a mathematical miracle to squeeze into the semi-finals.
On Saturday, they face an Australian team who come into the game at the world’s biggest cricket stadium in Ahmedabad with four straight wins.
However, the five-time winners will be without two key players, Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh.
England’s most recent loss was a 100-run thrashing at the hands of unbeaten India in Lucknow where coach Matthew Mott faced down questions over the team’s brittle batting line-up and claims of dressing room unrest.
Opening batsman Dawid Malan slammed reports of Mott, who had conceded the ICC World Cup 2023 campaign was over for the 2019 champions, losing the confidence of the players.
“Motty is not the one walking out on the field,” Malan told BBC.
“As players, we need to take responsibility when we cross that rope. We are being given everything we need to perform. The facilities and work, everything is being done as it always has been.”
He added: “It is really hard to sum up. We just can’t seem to get anything going at the moment or any rhythm or momentum. We’re not used to being in that position.”
England’s only win in the ongoing ICC World Cup 2023 so far was against Bangladesh.
They lost to Afghanistan while in their last two games, their batting folded for 156 (against Sri Lanka) and then 129 (India).
Defeat to Australia will not only knock them out of contention for a semi-final spot but also put them in danger of missing the 2025 Champions Trophy.
England must finish in the top seven places to qualify for the 50-over tournament in Pakistan.
“I’m pretty sure I’ll be done for that but I’d love the guys to play in that,” the 36-year-old Malan said. “Hopefully we can find the momentum and finish the World Cup on a high.”
The two fierce rivals played out an exhilarating and often bitter Ashes this year with the five-match Test series ending 2-2.
Australia hold the aces in the 50-over format with 87 wins over England in 155 matches and in nine World Cup meetings the Aussies remain 6-3 ahead.
But when they met in the 2019 World Cup semi-finals, England triumphed and went on to win their maiden World Cup.
Australia started this World Cup with two losses but bounced back and are fresh from their record 309-run hammering of the Netherlands last week.
But the former champions have been dealt two blows after Maxwell fell off a golf buggy and suffered concussion while Marsh has left for home due to personal reasons.
Maxwell blasted the fastest World Cup century off just 40 balls to tear into the Dutch attack in New Delhi.
His omission paves the way for Marcus Stoinis to return.
Marsh has amassed 225 runs including a classy 121 in a 259-run opening partnership with David Warner against Pakistan.
Coach Andrew McDonald said Maxwell’s injury does leave them “a fraction exposed at the back end” but Stoinis “does become available”.
Cameron Green also comes into the picture for the all-important match with Marsh’s place up for grabs.
Marnus Labuschagne is expected to retain his place despite his 18 in the team’s previous win — a thrilling last-ball finish in Dharamsala — over New Zealand.
The middle-order batsman said England remain a “dangerous” team and “let’s not get sucked into how they’re performing”.
Australia, led by Pat Cummins, are currently in third spot and well-placed to reach the semi-finals after winning four games.