WORLD T20: Marsh could face ban if Australia manipulate Scotland result to knock England out

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Josh Hazlewood has said Australia could try and manipulate any margin of victory over Scotland to try and knock England out – of the T20 World Cup 2024 though his captain Mitchell Marsh could face a ban if found guilty of doing so by match officials.

The exact sums won’t be known until England have played Oman and Namibia, and a defeat against either will end their campaign.

But there is a good chance a scenario emerges whereby Australia could win their final group match by a narrow-enough margin to ensure Scotland go through at England’s expense on net run-rate, with the teams level on five points each.

“In this tournament you potentially come up against England at some stage again,” Hazlewood said after Australia confirmed their Super Eight spot with a clinical win over Namibia.

“They’re probably one of the top few teams on their day and 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.

“It’ll be interesting to see. We’ve never really been in this position before as a team, I don’t think, so whether we have discussions or not, we’ll just try and play it again the way we did tonight. That’ll be up to [other] people, not me.”

But if Australia decided to do so, they would risk Marsh being banned for up to two of their three Super Eight fixtures.

He could be charged under Article 2.11 of the ICC’s code of conduct, which is designed to prevent the manipulation of games for “inappropriate strategic or tactical reasons… such as when a team deliberately loses a pool match in an ICC Event in order to affect the standings of other teams in that ICC Event.”

The code of conduct clarifies it could also apply to “the inappropriate manipulation of a net run rate” and the captain would be held responsible, and charged with a Level Two offence.

Depending on the severity of the offence, this could carry a minimum sanction of a 50% match fee fine, with a maximum of four demerit points and two suspension points – which would rule Marsh out of Australia’s first two Super Eight matches.

In practice, it could be difficult for umpires to say categorically Australia had deliberately attempted to manipulate net run-rate, barring an obvious shift in tempo from a position of dominance. In any case, Andrew McDonald, Australia’s head coach, will consider resting players for the Scotland fixture with nothing on the line.

Such a scenario would also revive memories of when Australia attempted to game the system at the 1999 ODI World Cup against West Indies with a go-slow batting performance to ensure they could take extra points into the Super Sixes.

Australia’s Josh Hazlewood and Mitchell Marsh talks during play

“Whether you get close and you just knock it around and drag it out,” Hazlewood suggested of how it could play out. “There’s a few options there but… to take confidence from winning and winning well, I think that’s almost more important than potentially trying to knock someone else out. They [England] have still got a lot to do on their behalf as well, so I think it’ll become clearer the closer we get to that sort of stuff.”

With run-rates not carrying forward to the Super Eights in this tournament, there would be no damage to Australia’s hopes should they take their foot off the gas. On that factor, Hazlewood said he thought it was odd that no benefits were taken forwards from group-stage performances.

“It’s a little bit strange that it doesn’t go through the tournament,” he said. “This is probably the first T20 World Cup I’ve played that’s set up this way, or first World Cup in general that’s set up this way, so it’s a little bit different. I think the work that you do in the round games and if you go through undefeated and have a good net run-rate, doesn’t really account for much once you’re in the Super Eights. So, yeah, it’s a strange one but that’s how it is.”

For their part, Namibia could render all calculations unnecessary if they are able to pull off an upset in their final game against England although captain Gerhard Erasmus was remaining diplomatic in the midst of the Australia-England rivalry.

“Obviously, also in the Australian press that will be pretty liked,” he said. “But for us, we’re pretty neutral so I can’t really comment on any of that. We’re here to continue playing at our best abilities. Unfortunately, as the captain I sort of have to say that we haven’t quite reached our full potential in this tournament.

“I guess you’re all Aussies here [at this press conference], so you’re really cheering us on to maybe try and get that win. But I’d have to rein it back a little bit and say that we probably need to play our best cricket and nothing more than that.” (ESPNcricinfo) 

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