In the place of the chaos of the weekend, Australia came calmly from behind to beat England by 16 runs. The victory took them to the top of the Carlton & United series qualifying table on net run-rate, dislodging England for the first time.
It owed much to the intelligent leadership of Shane Warne, a stand-in captain unafraid to improvise, who appears to have an innate knowledge of how a game might be turned. There was a point when England were, if not exactly cruising to victory, in control of their destiny. Warne merely shuffled his bowlers and used attacking fields. He is probably aware that to succeed you have to gamble and as the world knows (the number 23 he wears on his shirt is his favoured roulette call) he is prepared to do that.
The most successful aspect of his adroit handling of proceedings was ensuring that Graeme Hick was kept from the strike during the closing stages of the contest. Hick scored his third century of the tournament in the space of nine days, his fourth successive score of above fifty, and he is in magnificent touch. But you cannot win close matches with the bat if you are not facing the bowling, and the poor fellow was rendered powerless.
England were 188 for 4 when Hick was in the 90s. Eight overs later he reached his century but he had faced only eight more balls. It was a clever one-day strategy and it cost England the match. Hick's 109 came from 119 balls - but it was the second time at Adelaide that his century was in a losing cause.
Of course, it may be too soon to suggest Warne as a future captain of Australia, perhaps the next. But the public has virtually forgotten his involvement with an Indian bookmaker which was revealed only a month ago. So much else has happened since in this competition that it has been forced firmly into the recesses of most minds.
Mark Taylor, the present Test captain, will decide sometime this week whether to retire and, while Steve Waugh is the obvious candidate to replace him, Warne has shown his credentials for the task. Waugh, the nominated one-day captain, has been prevented from playing in most of this tournament because of a hamstring injury. No injury is timely, this one may prove to be especially unfortunate in that regard.
At 239 for 7 off 50 overs it seemed as though Australia were a few short of par on a pitch which was not the batting paradise of three days earlier but was still a model of reliability. England bowled well and took wickets when they were needed. There had existed the initial prospect that they might be affected by the dramatic events of their previous appearance on the ground. It sounds almost perverse to suggest it - but maybe they were happier playing this opposition.
Australia lost two early wickets to Darren Gough's typically thrustful use of the new ball before Mark Waugh and Darren Lehmann turned it round briefly. Waugh is in Hick's sort of form. This was his sixth consecutive half century of the series and his 50th in all one-cay internationals. It contained all the reflexes and characteristics of the previous 49 and in all he assembled 65 from 58 balls.
There was a moment, as Australia lost their fifth wicket at 134, when they might have been rounded up for fewer than 200 and England could have been on their way to the finals. But they bat long and Damien Martyn and Shane Lee carved them out of trouble.
England progressed exactly as they would have wished. Hick, in early, was immediately commanding, Nick Knight as ever did his job in the opening overs. It was annoying that he was again out when he should have gone on, again to an irksome kind of dismissal, giving Warne a return catch.
Still, all looked rosy enough until Australia's leg-spinning captain decided, in the 35th over, that it was time for Glenn McGrath to have his second spell. He had gone wicketless while conceding 27 runs in his first burst of five overs but now came back for three more, took the wickets of Nasser Hussain and Neil Fairbrother and, to the strains from an excited Australia Day crowd of "Ooh ah, Glenn McGrath", altered the course of the game.
England, missing the injured Adam Hollioake, became dependent on their lower order. There was some exemplary catching, not least by Brendon Julian, who continues to cling to his place in the Australian one-day team, and Warne applied the tourniquet. England were slowly throttled.
With Hick there was always the chance of a late dash for the line and, when he clobbered Warne for a six over square leg the ball after being put down in the outfield, hope burgeoned for England. But he was run out while backing up soon after and England now go to Perth with all to play for. It could still be extremely tight - but how enjoyable it was to return to cricket.
ADELAIDE OVAL SCOREBOARD
Australia won toss
M E Waugh c Hussain b Croft 65
114 min, 80 balls, 7 fours
A C Gilchrist b Gough 0
3 min, 3 balls
G S Blewett b Gough 4
30 min, 15 balls
D S Lehmann b Croft 51
94 min, 68 balls, 3 fours
D R Martyn not out 59
100 min, 68 balls, 3 fours
S G Law c Stewart b Ealham 3
4 min, 6 balls
S Lee c Fairbrother b Headley 41
69 min, 53 balls, 1 four
B P Julian b Headley 0
1 min, 1 ball
*S K Warne run out 11
8 min, 7 balls, 1 four
Extras (lb4, nb1) 5
Total (for 8, 50 overs) 239
Fall: 1-1 (Gilchrist), 2-25 (Blewett), 3-118 (Waugh), 4-131 (Lehmann), 5-134 (Law), 6-224 (Lee), 7-224 (Julian), 8-239 (Warne).
Did not bat: A C Dale, G D McGrath.
Bowling: Gough 10-0-51-2 (5-0-17-2, 2-0-6-0, 3-0-28-0); Mullally 10-0- 39-0 (6-0-19-0, 2-0-7-0, 2-0-13-0); Headley 10-0-59-2 (nb1) (6-0-34-0, 3-0-17-0, 1-0-8-2); Ealham 10-0-46-1 (5-0-29-0, 5-0-17-1), Croft 10-0- 40-2 (one spell).
Progress: 50: 54 min, 76 balls. 100: 97 min, 133 balls. 150: 148 min, 206 balls. 200: 193 min, 274 balls. 15 overs: 70-2.
Waugh's 50: 76 min, 58 balls, 7 fours. Lehmann's 50: 90 min, 65 balls, 3 fours. Martyn's 50: 82 min, 62 balls, 2 fours.
N V Knight c and b Warne 42
95 min, 73 balls, 3 fours
*A J Stewart c Gilchrist b Dale 6
21 min, 14 balls
G A Hick run out 109
194 min, 119 balls, 6 fours, 2 sixes
N Hussain lbw b McGrath 21
48 min, 36 balls, 3 fours
N H Fairbrother b McGrath 10
10 min, 6 balls, 2 fours
J P Crawley c and b Julian 11
22 min, 23 balls
M A Ealham c and b Warne 4
13 min, 12 balls
R D B Croft c and b Julian 0
2 min, 1 ball
D Gough c Dale b Warne 2
8 min, 5 balls
D W Headley b McGrath 2
15 min, 9 balls
A D Mullally not out 0
3 min, 0 balls
Extras (lb7, w2, nb7) 16
Total (48.3 overs) 223
Fall: 1-18 (Stewart), 2-98 (Knight), 3-162 (Hussain), 4-176 (Fairbrother), 5-193 (Crawley), 6-202 (Ealham), 7-204 (Croft), 8-210 (Gough), 9-223 (Hick), 10-223 (Headley).
Bowling: McGrath 9.3-0-40-3 (nb3) (5-0-27-0, 3-0-8-2, 1.3-0-5-1); Dale 10-1-35-1 (nb1) (7-1-22-1, 3-0-13-0); Lee 3-0-23-0 (2-0-11-0, 1-0-12-0); Julian 10-0-44-2 (nb2, w2) (7-0-30-0, 3-0-14-2); Warne 10-0-39-3 (nb1) (7-0-29-1, 3-0-10-2); Martyn 3-0-15-0; Law 2-0-8-0; Lehmann 1-0-12-0 (one spell each).
Progress: 50: 59 min, 81 balls. 100: 97 min, 139 balls. 150: 136 min, 206 balls. 200: 186 min, 263 balls. 15 overs: 68-1.
Hick's 50: 90 min, 61 balls, 5 fours. 100: 188 min, 112 balls, 6 fours, 1 six.
AUSTRALIA WIN BY 16 RUNS
Umpires: D J Harper and P D Parker. TV replay umpire: S J Davis. Match referee: P L Van der Merwe.
Man of the match: G A Hick.
Compiled by Jo KingReuse content