England has taken an unassailable 2-0 lead in the T20 series against Australia, defeating the reigning world champions by eight runs at Canberra’s Manuka Oval on Wednesday evening.

Despite fielding a full-strength starting XI for the first time in almost 12 months, the Australians were plagued by sloppy fielding and lazy dismissals as their T20 World Cup preparation took a turn for the worse.

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A batting masterclass from England No. 3 David Malan and an impressive bowling display from all-rounder Sam Curran was enough for the visitors to seal the three-match bilateral series with one game to spare.

The Australian innings was headlined by a magical piece of fielding by England all-rounder Ben Stokes, who saved four runs with a “ridiculous” one-handed grab in the 12th over.

Stokes managed to leap in the air, complete the catch and flick the ball back into play before landing over the rope, denying Australian all-rounder Mitchell Marsh a certain boundary.

There was considerably more swing on offer at the Australian capital than during Sunday’s season opener at Perth, with New South Wales seamer Josh Hazlewood beating both edges of the bat in the opening over of England’s innings.

Australian paceman Pat Cummins trapped rival captain Jos Buttler on the pads in the second over, but the right-hander was given a reprieve after Hawkeye suggested the Kookaburra would have missed leg stump by a whisker.

Cummins got his man a few minutes later, with Buttler top-edging a lengthy delivery that was taken by spinner Adam Zampa at short third man inches off the turf.

Buttler’s opening partner departed soon after, with Alex Hales driving Marcus Stoinis’ first delivery of the day straight to mid-off.

Stokes never looked comfortable at the crease, eventually losing his patience and wildly swinging at a full Zampa delivery that crashed into the stumps, clean bowled for 7 (11).

English young gun Harry Brook came and went, feathering an edge through to Matthew Wade with the gloves to give Stoinis his second wicket of the night.

The visitors were suddenly 4/54, and the situation could have been far worse if Glenn Maxwell had held onto a tough chance at backward point, giving Moeen Ali an extra life on 1.

England No. 3 Dawid Malan and Ali then combined for a crucial 92-run partnership for the fifth wicket, with the former bringing up his half-century in 31 balls.

The Aussies were left to rue two dropped catches in the 15th over, with David Warner and Tim David volleying chances over the boundary rope.

Warner was escorted off the field by a team medic after landing heavily on the turf, but the veteran opener returned having passed a concussion test.

It was second time lucky for David, who pouched a catch in the 17th over to send Ali back to the sheds for 44 (27), a knock headlined by a monstrous 98-metre six over square leg.

Malan was dismissed by Stoinis in the final over as England registered 7/178, with the West Australian all-rounder finishing with career-best figures of 3/34.

Australian captain Aaron Finch was the first domino to fall in the run chase, slapping a full delivery from English seamer David Willey to mid-off, gone for 13.

And Warner, perhaps still rattled from his head knock, followed suit a few minutes later after top-edging Reece Topley straight in the air, with Brook settling underneath for a regulation catch.

Glenn Maxwell struggled to find his rhythm on the sticky Canberra wicket, and he eventually pulled a Curran bouncer directly towards the boundary rider at square leg for 8 (11).

It was the Victorian’s sixth consecutive single-figure score in T20Is, a worrying trend ahead of the T20 World Cup.

But Marsh and Stoinis steadied the ship, combining for a 40-run partnership before Curran removed the latter for 22 in the 12th over.

The slog sweep proved an effective weapon for the Australians, with England leg-spinner Adil Rashid on the receiving end of a couple of huge sixes throughout the middle overs.

Marsh’s heroic knock came to a deflating halt in the 15th over, caught at deep square leg off Stokes’ bowling for an entertaining 45 (29).

But that prompted David to take control of the innings, muscling six boundaries before Curran bowled the T20 globetrotter around his legs to put England on the verge of victory.

The left-armed seamer finished with career-best figures of 3/25, successfully defending 22 runs off the last over despite Cummins thumping the first delivery for six.

The third T20 between Australia and England gets underway at Manuka Oval on Friday evening, with the first ball scheduled for 7.10pm AEDT.

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