MELBOURNE: A highly anticipated clash between Australia and England at the Twenty20 World Cup was abandoned without a ball being bowled because of rain on Friday in Melbourne, leaving their group wide open.
It was the second match of the day, after Ireland v Afghanistan, to be washed out at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and means all four sides take a point each in their hunt for a place in the semifinals.
New Zealand lead Group 1 on three points -- the same as England, Ireland and holders Australia -- but the Black Caps have a better net run-rate and a game in hand.
Sri Lanka and Afghanistan have two points. The top two from the group will reach the semifinals.
Four matches have now been rained off at the tournament in Australia.
The showdown between Ashes rivals England and Australia had been billed as a must-win for both sides after each had won one and lost one.
"It is a shame tonight, especially for everybody involved. All the fans who were going to come and watch this game live, everybody wanting to watch it on TV," England captain Jos Buttler said.
"For players especially as well, Australia v England at the MCG in a must-win World Cup match is as big as it gets in your career and they are the games you want to be involved in.
"And no matter what the result was going to be, it's something you want to experience as a cricketer."
England, who together with Australia were one of the pre-tournament favourites, next play New Zealand on Tuesday in Brisbane in another must-win game.
Australia have the easier of the remaining matches compared to England and play Ireland on Monday, also at The Gabba.
"The outfield has taken a drenching over the last couple of weeks, as wet as I've ever seen it," Australian skipper Aaron Finch said of the sodden MCG.
Ireland skipper Andrew Balbirnie expressed his frustration after the rain also denied his giant-killers a crack at a win over Afghanistan.
The Irish were pumped up after stunning England by five runs on Wednesday in a rain-affected encounter, but the wet weather checked their momentum against winless Afghanistan.
The Afghans have now had two games abandoned.
Balbirnie said the situation was "very disappointing".
"We played some really good cricket the other night and were looking forward to this fixture against a team we know really well," he said.
"We spoke a lot about it after the England game, about backing up that performance and coming out here and playing some good cricket. We didn't get to show what we could do today, unfortunately.
"If it could have gone our way we could have gone to Brisbane (to play Australia) with a lot of hopes of going into the next round."
Ireland had form against the Afghans, winning a five-match T20 series 3-2 earlier this year.
Afghanistan are bottom of the group and skipper Mohammad Nabi was equally disappointed.
"We were fully ready... the plan was to put a score on the board and bring the spinners into the game during the chase," he said.
Next up in Group 1 is New Zealand against Sri Lanka on Saturday in Sydney. -- AFP