Thunder, lightning and heavy rain brought a feisty encounter to a damp and disappointing conclusion here last night. When the umpires eventually abandoned the contest at 9.25pm honours were about even. England, chasing an amended Australian total of 200 in 33 overs, were on 37 for 1 when another squall ended proceedings.
England's initial target of 262 in 50 overs was reduced after lightning forced the players from the field after three overs. The bolts had forced the temporary floodlights to be lowered for safety reasons and this had taken the quality of the light below an acceptable level.
After a 100-minute delay the players returned and Andrew Strauss struck Glenn McGrath for four boundaries in his first over. But the fast bowler gained revenge with the final ball of the day when Strauss chipped a catch to mid-on.
Thoughts that the match would be treated as a gentle warm-up for Saturday's NatWest Series final at Lord's evaporated on the final ball of the sixth over when Matthew Hayden and several members of the England side were involved in an ugly confrontation.
Simon Jones instigated the altercation when he picked up a defensive push from Hayden on his follow through and hurled it into the pitch. Fast bowlers do this to intimidate the batsman, and the early dismissal of Adam Gilchrist had fired the Welshman up. Jones was not trying to hit the batsman, but the ball flew off the pitch and struck Hayden around the left armpit.
Jones raised a hand to apologise but the furious Australian rebuffed it, and started walking towards the bowler. Hayden told the Glamorgan paceman what he thought of him, but by then Michael Vaughan, Paul Collingwood and Strauss had reached the feuding pair. Each gave Hayden their tuppence worth before the umpires arrived to defuse the situation.
Jones kept his cool throughout the incident, and he came out the victor when he trapped the left-hander with a beautiful in-swinger. The burly Queenslander had not added to his score, but Jones, who was fined for giving Ramnaresh Sarwan a send-off in Trinidad in 2004 after he had got him out, resisted the chance to tell his victim where the dressing-room is.
It was just as well for England that Jones kept his emotions under control because, had he not, Australia would have ended up with a far more challenging total than the 261 for 9 they finished with.
For the third match in a row Andrew Symonds was Australia's hero. The dynamic all-rounder played magnificently for his 74 runs and received energetic support from Mike Hussey, the pair putting on 102 crucial runs in 15 overs. But with a score of close to 300 becoming a distinct possibility, Hussey ran Symonds out when he foolishly returned for a second run. Michael Clarke, Hussey and Brad Hogg then edged further catches to the wicketkeeper as Australia lost five wickets for 30 in six overs. It resulted in them falling 20 runs short of the score they were hoping for.
Despite taking three late wickets, Darren Gough had a day to forget. The veteran fast bowler's first over was clattered for 14 runs and his bowling figures - 3 for 70 in nine overs - were the second most expensive of his career.
Stephen Harmison and Andrew Flintoff were the pick of England's attack. Australia's batsmen once again struggled to cope with their pace and bounce. Harmison's opening five-over spell was a mixed bag. A couple of balls whistled past Ricky Ponting's chin, but the Australian captain regained his composure, taking three boundaries off the fast bowler's fifth over.
Damien Martyn is an elegant batsman, but a tendency to look for runs through the off-side enables disciplined bowlers to tie him down. And this is what Flintoff, Harmison and Ashley Giles did between the 15th and 25th over, when only 23 runs were scored.
Ponting, in an effort to break England's hold, attempted to smash Flintoff back over his head for six, but only succeeded in giving Geraint Jones the second of his five catches.
England's bowling continued to frustrate Martyn, who was controversially caught cutting Harmison. Kevin Pietersen claimed the low catch at third man but the ball appeared to touch the ground as he dived forward.Reuse content