England are through to the Super Eight stage of the T20 World Cup after Australia did them a favour in St Lucia on Saturday night with a tense five-wicket win over Scotland.

Jos Buttler‘s team had done their bit earlier in the day in Antigua, beating Namibia by 41 runs after rain had reduced the game to a 10-over-a-side thrash. But Scotland would have leapfrogged them into the next phase with a victory over the Australians, who had little to play for other than pride after already qualifying.

And when Australia slipped to 60 for three in the ninth over, chasing 182 for victory, the Scots were eyeing up arguably the greatest result in their history.

But Marcus Stoinis counter-attacked superbly while Travis Head bided his time at the other end, before Head upped the tempo with three sixes in an over off seamer Safyaan Sharif.

He perished for 68 off 49 aiming for a fourth, while Stoinis moved to a powerful 25-ball half-century, with the required rate now well into double figures.

Tim David and Matthew Wade shake hands after sealing Australia's win over Scotland

Tim David and Matthew Wade shake hands after sealing Australia's win over Scotland

Tim David and Matthew Wade shake hands after sealing Australia’s win over Scotland

Chris Sole suffered late heartbreak in the field, dropping a catch off Wade in the final over

Chris Sole suffered late heartbreak in the field, dropping a catch off Wade in the final over

Chris Sole suffered late heartbreak in the field, dropping a catch off Wade in the final over

Scotland didn’t give up, and left-arm spinner Mark Watt – who had earlier knocked over Glenn Maxwell with a beauty – then bowled Stoinis for 59. But the momentum had swung, and a couple of boundaries from Tim David in the 18th over, bowled by Brad Wheal, took the wind from Scottish sails.

The Scots’ final chance came with Australia needing three off four balls, when David launched Wheal high to deep midwicket, where Tim Sole put down the catch. Seconds later, David hit the winning six with deliveries balls to spare, sending a relieved England through and a deflated Scotland out.

A lively Scotland innings had centred on a second-wicket stand of 89 in eight overs between opener George Munsey, who hit three sixes in his 23-ball 35, and Brandon McMullen, who hit six in a brilliant 60 off 34.

With captain Richie Berrington contributing an undefeated 42 off 31, Scotland finished on 181 for five, the highest score by an Associate nation against the Australians, who looked unusually lacklustre and missed six catches of varying difficulty – a record for a men’s T20 World Cup game.

Earlier in the day, England had done their bit by beating Namibia in a rain-affected game

Earlier in the day, England had done their bit by beating Namibia in a rain-affected game

Earlier in the day, England had done their bit by beating Namibia in a rain-affected game

Australia's Marcus Stoinis is bowled out during the win over Scotland in St Lucia on Saturday

Australia's Marcus Stoinis is bowled out during the win over Scotland in St Lucia on Saturday

Australia’s Marcus Stoinis is bowled out during the win over Scotland in St Lucia on Saturday

Later, when Head and Mitchell Marsh failed to push hard for a third in the third over of the chase, former Australian great Matthew Hayden said in the commentary box: ‘That just shows that their attitude isn’t quite 100% tonight.’

Fellow pundit Pommie Mbangwa added: ‘It’s not often you say they’re not at the races.’

For England, who had earlier feared that Antiguan rain would wash away their chances of reaching the last eight, it must have been an agonising watch.

And it brought into focus comments earlier in the week from Australian fast bowler Josh Hazlewood, who said his team’s first goal would be victory but also entertained the possibility of helping the Scots out in case they needed to oust England on net run-rate.

‘In this tournament you potentially come up against England at some stage again, and they’re one of the top few teams on their day,’ said Hazlewood. ‘We’ve had some real struggles against them in T20 cricket, so if we can get them out of the tournament that’s in our best interest, as well as probably everyone else’s.’

Asked how this might play out, he said: ‘Not too sure really. Whether you get close and just knock it around and drag it out. There’s a few options there.’

Hazlewood was rested for this game, along with Pat Cummins, who had stepped in to play down his team-mate’s comments, suggesting any such subterfuge would be against the ‘spirit of cricket’.

Rival Scotland and Australia fans pose for a photo at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground

Rival Scotland and Australia fans pose for a photo at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground

Rival Scotland and Australia fans pose for a photo at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground

Sole drops a catch, which could have helped Scotland to a win in the final over vs Australia

Sole drops a catch, which could have helped Scotland to a win in the final over vs Australia

Sole drops a catch, which could have helped Scotland to a win in the final over vs Australia

In the event, Australia fielded a weakened attack, with Maxwell bowling his full allocation of four overs for the first time in a T20 international since October 2021. Left-arm spinner Ashton Agar had not played a T20 international since October 2022, while Stoinis, who opened the bowling against Namibia, and has taken six wickets in this tournament at nine apiece, did not bowl at all.

When David Warner fell in the second over of the chase for a single, soon followed by Marsh for eight, Scotland were daring to dream – more so when Watt removed Maxwell.

But the Australians chipped away skilfully at a target of 107 from their last 10 overs, before breaking Scottish hearts at the death.

England head to St Lucia today for Super Eight matches against West Indies on Wednesday and South Africa on Friday, before returning to Barbados to take on the USA on Sunday. Above all, after an enervating day, they are breathing again.

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