England suffered a major upset in the Men’s T20 World Cup as an inspired Ireland and rain seriously dented their title hopes in Melbourne.
After a surprisingly meek performance in pursuit of 158, England, one of the tournament favourites, were 105-5 in the 15th over when rain arrived.
With England five runs behind the required rate, Ireland secured a five-run win on the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method when the match was called off soon after.
The result does not end England’s hopes of progressing from Group 1 but it leaves them likely needing to beat Australia, New Zealand and Sri Lanka in their remaining games to go through.
After slipping to 86-5, the rain arrived just as Moeen Ali had begun to wrestle some momentum back for England by striking three boundaries in five balls.
But it proved too little too late, England left ruing their top-order collapse before they return to the Melbourne Cricket Ground for what is now a crucial match against Australia on Friday at 09:00 BST.
Reaction to England v Ireland at the MCG
England upset by Ireland again
The timing of the rain was unfortunate – one more ball and a Moeen six would have taken his side ahead of the score required.
England, though, can have few complaints. Their performance was below-par with both bat and ball.
Ireland have done this before, famously they beat England in Bangalore in the 50-over World Cup of 2011, but they are the second-lowest ranked team left in this competition.
England’s tactics with the bat were curious.
Having lost captain Jos Buttler for a duck to the second ball of the chase, they struggled to find any timing – hitting only eight boundaries in 87 balls.
With the required rate up around10 runs per over, they looked to take on the long MCG boundaries with Harry Brook caught off the spin of George Dockrell on the mid-wicket fence.
All of this came after they managed to peg their opponents back following a wayward start in which they allowed the men in green to race to 102-1 after 12 overs.
England inflicted a collapse of 9-54, giving them what looked a manageable chase, but now their hopes of a second T20 world title are in real jeopardy.
Friday’s encounter against Australia, who lost to New Zealand in their opener before beating Sri Lanka, is now effectively a knockout game.
Batters struggle in Melbourne
Buttler pointed to the first 10 overs of the match as the reason for the defeat while admitting they were still favourites at halfway.
He was caught behind driving left-armer Josh Little, who then had Alex Hales caught at short fine leg when the opener skied a pull shot.
Ben Stokes’ struggles continued, he made six from eight balls before being bowled by an inswinger from Fionn Hand.
Dawid Malan’s innings summed up England’s struggles. He lasted 37 balls for his 35 but rarely timed a ball in that knock.
Ireland bowled accurately throughout, showing England the way, and capitalised on swing and seam brought to life by rain before the game.
Only Moeen found his rhythm – he had 24 from 12 balls when the rain came, including the innings’ one six when launching leg-spinner Gareth Delany down the ground.