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England used to playing with backs against the wall – Moeen Ali

Moeen Ali knows England are in must-win territory (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)
Moeen Ali knows England are in must-win territory (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

Moeen Ali admits England are already in “backs against the wall” mode at the T20 World Cup as they fight to keep their tournament on the tracks.

The reigning champions have had a forgettable week in Barbados to kick off their title defence, making a slow start in their washed-out opener against Scotland before being outclassed in all three disciplines by Australia on Saturday.

Having watched their Ashes rivals rack up 201 for seven at the Kensington Oval, the highest total of the competition, they failed to come close in a chastening 36-run defeat.

All is not lost, with games against Oman and Namibia coming up and a change of scenery in Antigua offering a chance to make up lost ground. But with unexpected results cropping up with increasing regularity, nothing can be taken for granted.

As vice-captain, Moeen is a veteran of previous campaigns that teetered in the balance before ending in triumph – with the 2022 edition of this event and the 2019 World Cup both entering ‘must-win’ territory before England came good – but was also on duty when last year’s 50-over defence lurched from bad to worse.

“In the last T20 World Cup when we won it, we had to win every game so we’re kind of used to doing this with our backs against the wall,” he said.

“I don’t care about the last 50-over World Cup, that’s done, but I think in this World Cup we can do a lot better. It’s about being calm and not letting the outside noise affect us.

“You can’t get too down and go into our shells or say ‘what if this happens?’. We’ve just got to be really ruthless in those next two games and start playing our best cricket otherwise we’re going home.”

The scale of their defeat has put a major dent in the net run-rate, which comes into play as a tie-break should points be tied.

England could therefore find themselves scrapping over decimal places with Scotland for a Super 8 spot, placing an emphasis on not just winning but winning big.

“We need to be more aggressive without being reckless, not overthink things, and take those two teams down,” said Moeen, who showed his own explosive side with three sixes off a single Glenn Maxwell over after the game had gone against Australia.

“There’s been quite a few tournaments where I’ve missed out on net run rate so it’s huge. If we get the chance we’re going to have to win by quite big margins.

“We’ve got the team to do that. I know in this World Cup big teams are losing but we’ve got to go into these two games and almost throw the first punch then just keep going from there.”

England have no shortage of areas to improve. Team selection may need to be looked at again, with the omission of left-arm quick Reece Topley appearing to be an error, while Jonny Bairstow’s strained seven from 13 balls suggested a player short of rhythm.

England’s Jonny Bairstow plays a shot watched by Australia wicketkeeper Matthew Wade
Jonny Bairstow looked out of sorts against Australia (Ricardo Mazalan/AP)

Even more obvious, though, is a lack of sharpness in the field. England lacked energy in both games and there were hints of fractiousness between players at times in Bridgetown.

Head coach Matthew Mott felt his side were ‘sloppy’ against Scotland and that diagnosis was even truer second time around, with pressure mounting around his position after a difficult year.

“There was a bit of sloppy stuff but I think we were sloppy with the ball as well,” said a frustrated Moeen. “We just kept giving them the boundary.

“Motty is good, he was really calm and has a lot of experience in World Cups. It’s just about everyone else being calm.

“Even in India he was the one guy being positive. Not for no reason, but he was always thinking about the positive things and how we can get better.”