Cricket-Pitiful England sent packing from World Cup by Ashes foes

AHMEDABAD, India (Reuters) -England's stuttering title defence at the 50-overs World Cup eventually crumbled on Saturday and the setback was particularly painful as it was their Ashes rivals Australia who delivered the mortal blow on Jos Buttler and his disjointed team.

Pakistan did England a favour by beating New Zealand in Bengaluru earlier in the day, for a different outcome in that match would have eliminated Buttler's men even if they could have managed to beat Australia.

Not that Australia allowed that to happen as the five-times champions won by 33 runs, inflicting on England their sixth defeat in seven matches to keep them anchored to the bottom of the points table.

It was yet another patchy display with both the ball and bat by England, who never really recovered after Afghanistan stunned them in New Delhi on Oct. 15.

Following Buttler's decision to field, Chris Woakes (4-54) removed both the Australia openers but England could not drive home the advantage and let Marnus Labuschagne (71) rebuild the innings in the company of Steve Smith (44).

Spinner Adil Rashid dismissed Smith and Josh Inglis in his successive overs but Cameron Green (47) and Marcus Stoinis (35) scored some quick runs to prop up Australia.

Down the order, Adam Zampa scored quick 29 runs as Australia posted 286 before being all out with three deliveries left in their innings.

England's chase got off to the worst possible start with Jonny Bairstow falling for a first-ball duck to a poor delivery, and Joe Root perishing after his fortuitous 17-ball stay.

Dawid Malan (50) and Ben Stokes (64) managed half-centuries but England never looked in charge in their chase.

Stokes smashed three sixes but England's title defence was effectively over when he swept Zampa to Stoinis at short fine leg in the 36th over.

Lack of partnerships once again hurt England, who were eventually dismissed for 253 in 48.1 overs despite brief fightbacks by Moeen Ali (42) and Woakes (32).

Zampa (3-21) was player of the match for his stellar bowling that included the prized wickets of Buttler, Stokes and Moeen.

Buttler did not spare himself in his blunt assessment of their performance in the showpiece event.

"My own form has been the biggest concern," said the white-ball stalwart, who has not managed a single half-century in the tournament so far. "My own performance with the bat has hurt us."

It has been a dismal campaign by a star-studded team whose lone victory in the tournament so far came against Bangladesh.

The decision to bring Stokes out of his ODI retirement and the axing of opener Jason Roy are already being debated, and speculation is rife about the future of coach Matthew Mott.

Buttler said the players had let down themselves as well as their fans.

"To be stood in this position having arrived in India with high hopes is incredibly tough and disappointing. It hurts a lot.

"We haven't done ourselves justice. Coming into the tournament we fancied ourselves to have a real go and push."

In what was unthinkable at the start of the tournament, England, who face the Netherlands and Pakistan in their remaining matches, are now fighting for a top-eight finish in order to qualify for the 2025 Champions Trophy in Pakistan.

(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in New Delhi; editing by Clare Fallon)