David Warner's troubles in white-ball cricket have continued, posing a selection conundrum heading into the final matches of the Twenty20 tri-series.
The Australian captain was dismissed for two by England at the MCG on Saturday night, as the home side, chasing 138 for victory, cruised to a seven-wicket victory in 14.3 overs before a crowd of more 42,000.
Warner's poor form since the Ashes left him with only 73 runs in five one-day internationals against England and he now has 12 runs in three knocks through the tri-series. His latest failure came when he was caught on the crease by left-armer David Willey, edging a full delivery which shaped away and was snapped up by gloveman Jos Buttler.
He had been full of zest in the field, completing two catches and a direct hit to run out Dawid Malan, but his form with the bat will raise questions as to whether he should have been rested from this series. He is the only member of Australia's 15-man Test squad bound for South Africa this month to either not be rested or be playing in the current round of the Sheffield Shield.
Australia's unbeaten run through its opening three matches in the T20 series means it is guaranteed of making the final at Eden Park in Auckland on February 21. This could allow Warner to be rested from the final pool match against the Black Caps, also at Eden Park, on Friday.
Warner will be one of the highest paid players in the Indian Premier League this year, earning about $2.4 million, but he has only 22 runs in his past five T20 internationals, and has not passed 50 in his last 12 knocks in this format.
His regular opening partner Aaron Finch has returned from injury but, with the preference to retain D'Arcy Short at the top of the order, the Victorian came out at No.5. Finch could replace Warner if the latter was rested.
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While Warner struggled, power hitter Chris Lynn, after a duck in Hobart on Wednesday, rebounded with four boundaries and two sixes in his 31, while Glenn Maxwell (39 off 26) and Short (36 not out) also ensured Australia of an easy win. Maxwell and Short dashed to a 50-run stand off 32 balls, including crunching 39 off two combined overs from spinners Liam Dawson and Adil Rashid.
England, missing injured skipper Eoin Morgan, who strained a groin at training on Friday and is in doubt for the rest of the series, never got going with the bat. Pacemen Kane Richardson (3-33) and Billy Stanlake (2-28) were pivotal in holding the tourists to 7-137 on a two-paced deck off 20 overs.
Richardson had nothing but praise for the Australian attack.
"I think the variety is huge and everyone knows what overs they are going to bowl and everyone has executed what they wanted to do," he said.
"I think at the moment, it's a good feeling. But that is T20 as well. When you get a bit of momentum and a bit of a roll on, teams can be hard to stop. With England, if they can play well in that next game, all of a sudden they are a different team. It's good to win but I wouldn't read too much into having the wood over them (England) at all. It's a pretty similar team to that one-day team and they smashed us in that."
Warner had earlier won the toss and opted to bowl because he felt the deck was similar to the one England chased successfully on in the opening game of the one-day series – two paced and unpredictable. What became apparent was that Australia was ready to play at a high-octane pace.
Finch set the tone in the field by running back with the flight of the ball from mid-on to dismiss Alex Hales, while the dangerous Jason Roy was dismissed soon after.
Roy began with great memories of the venue, for his blazing ton in the one-day international was what led the tourists to victory. But on this night he was guilty of a lazy tickle behind, where Alex Carey completed the easy catch. Warner then got in on the act, a brilliant side-arm flick from mid-off resulting in a direct hit to end Malan's brief stay.
Malan had survived a nasty 149.7 km/h short ball from the impressive Stanlake, adding to the frustration of what was a soft dismissal. Having slipped to 3-36 after the power-play was completed, England needed to regroup.
James Vince, given the chance to replace Morgan, and stand-in skipper Buttler looked to rebuild the innings through a 36-run partnership. Having survived a couple of run-out opportunities, they guided the tourists to 67 after 10 overs, meaning a total of 160 was still possible. However, that changed when paceman Andrew Tye fooled Vince with one of his patented slower balls.
Sam Billings won a reprieve on 11 when he successfully challenged a caught-behind dismissal, the delivery coming off his thigh pad and not the glove.
He did provide some power hitting, with four boundaries and a six, including a reverse pull shot over short third man, but it was only Buttler who really threatened, and even he couldn't go at even a run a ball. He was caught off the final ball of the innings, completing a fine effort by the Australians where their variation with the ball and excellent fielding proved crucial.