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cricket:image:1421941 [900x506] (Credit: Getty Images)

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Australia have the opportunity to plot England's downfall at the T20 World Cup 2024 and could jeopardise their rivals' prospects of qualifying for the Super Eights by resting players in their final group-stage match against Scotland.

Andrew McDonald, their coach, repeatedly insisted on Monday that his players are focused on their game against Namibia in Antigua on Tuesday night. If they win, Australia will qualify for the Super Eights with a match to spare. With their seeding in Group 1 of the Super Eights predetermined, they would then enter Saturday's fixture against Scotland with no pressure on the result.

"[Against] Namibia, we need a win to guarantee ourselves a way through," McDonald said about the prospect of resting players against Scotland. "And then after that, once we've firmed up that qualification, then we can start to look at that potential if we feel like it's necessary… we know if we win this one, then we get the 'Q' next to our name."

England are defending T20 world champions but have just a single point from their first two games: a washout against Scotland and a comprehensive 36-run defeat to Australia on Saturday. It leaves them needing to register convincing wins over Oman and Namibia to overturn a net run-rate (NRR) deficit to Scotland, who have already beaten both teams.

Scotland have the added advantage of playing the final group game, putting them on the right side of an information asymmetry with England. Hypothetically, they could find themselves in a scenario where Australia set them, for example, 200 to win - but both teams would know that Scotland might only need to score 150 to keep their NRR ahead of England's and thereby qualify for the Super Eights.

"We're not really focused on England and where they're at," McDonald said. "We played them, we've moved past them and we'll do what's important to us within those [remaining] games… England have clearly got their own work to do in the next couple of games.

"We were put in a similar situation in the last T20 World Cup [in 2022] where we had to chase the net run-rate. It's always difficult, you're always dependent on other results and it's not a nice situation to be in. But that's for them to work through, not us."

McDonald said that he believes NRR is the best possible tie-breaker: "I don't think there's any other way of really doing it. It creates interest." But he hinted at some frustration that Australia's record will be wiped clean in the second league phase, as well as the fact that winning Group B would not affect their status as second seeds [B2] heading into the Super Eights.

"The only thing is that you don't carry your NRR through to the Super Eights, which is a little bit interesting. The whole tournament starts again. I would have liked to have seen the benefit of the early rounds, and what you were able to do in the early rounds, even right down to the seeds. We're seeded No. 2. We can't change that seeding, so it doesn't change what happens in the Super Eights for us."

In football's World Cups, teams in the same group play the final round of fixtures simultaneously to avoid situations where sporting integrity could be compromised. That has been a norm ever since a 1982 match - known as the Disgrace of Gijón - which saw West Germany and Austria collude on a result which suited both teams.

Asked if cricket could consider a similar system, McDonald drew a comparison with Australian Rules Football: "You'd have to have a rolling schedule, wouldn't you, to work out what was going to happen and unfold? I know other sports do that now: they don't lock away their later rounds until they've seen the first part of the season.

"That's probably more an AFL lens on that. But I think sometimes you're a beneficiary of that position, and other times you're not. So, whatever unfolds, there might be a way for teams to work out whether they're going through the Super Eights or not."

Australia could play five times in 10 days if they reach the final in Barbados on June 29, and McDonald said their management are conscious of player workloads ahead of Tuesday's fixture. "We've got a short turnaround from the England game into this one. There's travel involved… we believe that whatever XI we put out there, it's going to be very, very strong.

"Clearly there's a great challenge there for teams to navigate through the Super Eights: game, travel, game, travel, game. It's going to be difficult in how you manage your resources and make sure they are ready to perform with short turnarounds. There's a bit of an art to that. It may not necessarily be a locked XI through that period for teams. But they're hypotheticals: we've got Namibia in front of us first."