England players celebrate after the victory
England players celebrate after the victory
AFP

Southampton

Twenty20 encounters are mostly decided off the last ball, and the opening three-tie- encounter between England and Australia was no different as hosts pulled off a thriller, a two-run win here on Friday.

Set to score 163 for a win, at the empty Rose Bowl, the visitors were in the drivers seats as were 124 for one at the end of the 14 overs. But, the Australians collapsed and were 160 for 6, in their return to international cricket after six months. And they could not recover thereafter.

They lost four wickets for nine runs off 14 balls, with still requiring 26 runs off the 18 deliveries as things did good for them. Seven runs off the 18th over and wanted 15 off the last, bowled by Tom Curran.

Marcus Stoinis hit a huge six over cover off the second ball to leave the tourists needing nine runs off four, but couldn't hit another boundary.

Australia was handed a brilliant start to the chase as captain Aaron Finch (46) and David Warner (58) shared a 98-run opening stand. Things started going downhill, though, after the loss of Steven Smith for 18 to make it 124-2 and Glenn Maxwell four balls later for 1, both falling to the spin of Adil Rashid.

"We knew England would keep coming hard," Finch said, "and we probably struggled to find the boundary in that 12 to 18 over mark. That's something to work on."

England eked out a total of 162-7 mainly thanks to Dawid Malan (66) and Jos Buttler (44). No other player reached double-figures, with Kane Richardson having figures of 2-13 and Maxwell getting 2-14.

"I thought we were 15 runs light," Malan said, "probably one partnership away from getting to 175-180."

It was the first time England has defended a target under 180 since 2016.

The top-ranked Australians hadn't played since mid-March when their scheduled ODI series against New Zealand was abandoned.

England can wrap up the series by winning the second match back at the Rose Bowl on Sunday.

First time I have not been abused: Warner

SOUTHAMPTON: Star Australian opener David Warner felt bizzare playing in front of empty stands during the first T20 International here but he is not complaining as it was the first time he was not abused by hostile English crowd. Warner was at the receiving end of repeated crowd jeering during the World Cup in England last year following his role in the infamous ball-tampering scandal in South Africa. He got the same treatment in the subsequent Ashes series.

But there was none like that on Friday during the first T20 match which Australia lost by two runs as there were no fans present at the Ageas Bowl. It was Australia's first competitive match in nearly six months.

"It was the first time I've been here (England) and not got abuse. It was quite nice!," Warner said after the match.

Asked if the T20I felt like a game between arch-rivals England and Australia without fans in attendance, he said, "From a crowd perspective, no. It was a bit bizarre.

"You get that up and going (from the crowd). That's why we love playing home and away. There's home advantage and away advantage," the 38-year-old left-handed batsman said.

"But we're always up for international cricket. We're just grateful to be back playing and want to make the most of that."

Warner said there were no excuses to offer for the defeat and his side were outplayed by England.

"Towards the end they (England) bowled exceptionally well, they knocked us over quite comprehensively," said Warner.

Talking about Australia's failed chase, he said his side could not rotate strike and hit boundaries in the middle overs. Chasing 163 for a win, Australia could only score 160 for 6 in their 20 overs.

"I think we just have to try to be a little bit smarter and work out how we're going to hit our boundaries," he said.

"We have to try to keep rotating strike and keep finding the boundary in those middle overs."

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