England v Australia, it’s never short of drama, is it?

The Aussies may not have played since March but this was a superb advert for cricket as the wonderful nature of ebb and flow T20 was on show.

For a long time, England looked down and out. Australia had them against the ropes in both innings, but it was the hosts who came out on top, winning a remarkable match when they never really had any right to.

England came into this series without Joe Root and primarily because of the performance of Dawid Malan, it showed why he hadn’t been picked.

Root may be in good form in the domestic Blast season, but England’s T20 batting line-up is fiercely competitive. This was a side lacking Ben Stokes and Jason Roy, but it still looked formidable on paper.

Indeed, when Jos Buttler got hold of Ashton Agar early on, the signs looked good.

Given the rare opportunity to open for his country, he dispatched the spinner for two 6s and one 4 in his opening over, taking the Australian bowler for 16.

Buttler looked in formidable touch and carried on from where he left off in the test series against Pakistan. He struck 44 from just 29 deliveries to get England off to a bright start.

Unfortunately, however, Jonny Bairstow departed far sooner than hoped. He watched Buttler go about his business but received a superb delivery from Pat Cummins to edge behind for just eight.

Tom Banton came in at four but he also went cheaply, being caught off the bowling of Agar who bounced back well from Buttler’s early demolition job.

Those wickets brought Eoin Morgan and Malan to the crease. The skipper got off to a superb start by smacking a glorious cover drive for 4 off the bowling of Mitchell Starc. Yet, he didn’t last long at the crease either, trying to go after Glenn Maxwell but holing out to Steve Smith in the deep.

Fortunately, Malan was in form, as he so typically is in international T20 cricket. He was the glue that held the innings together, scoring his seventh IT20 half-century from just 14 outings.

He is very quickly cementing himself as one of the best batsmen on the international circuit in the shortest form of the game and against a tough Aussie attack, he proved exactly why.

While Moeen (2) and Tom Curran (6), fell around him, he was strong, hitting two sixes and a four in the last few overs. Malan eventually departed for a brilliant 66 from only 43 balls.

The majority of the English side had struggled with the willow but Malan was superb throughout.

A late flurry from Chris Jordan (14 off 8) saw England through to a total of 162 for 7. It had been tough going, but Morgan’s side had at least set a par score at the Ageas Bowl.

England had chosen to play an extra bowler on Friday evening but it didn’t really pay off in the first ten overs.

Aaron Finch and David Warner saw off the lightening pace of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer with relative ease as they put on 98 for the first wicket.

Pace on the ball seemed to travel as the openers dispatched the two quicks around the ground with some delightful shots early on.

Tom Curran and Chris Jordan, who used pace off, had a little more success but it was Archer who finally made the breakthrough.

He had Australian skipper Finch caught by Jordan for 46, and then the game suddenly began to change.

Adil Rashid’s final over was superb as he had Steve Smith caught for a score of 18 and then the dangerous Glenn Maxwell went a few balls later when he slapped one straight to Morgan in the covers.

It was a terrific fightback from England as Archer and Wood then struck in successive overs, both clattering the stumps.

Archer yorked Warner to knock him over for 58 and then Alex Carey played around one to go for just a single.

It was a thrilling finish in Southampton where the tourists resorted to a simple game of tap and run.

Ultimately, it was England who prevailed. Agar was run-out by Jordan off his own bowling and the Aussies then needed 15 from the final over.

Curran was the man to deliver it and he bowled a dot ball before being carted for a huge six by Marcus Stoinis. The next ball was another dot as the tricky bowler closed things out beautifully for England to win by two runs.

It was a fabulous game of cricket – let’s hope for more of the same in the next IT20 on Sunday.

by Matt Dawson