Bopara calmly gets the job done after Australia panic
Australia 145-7 England 138-3 - England win by seven wickets (D/L Method)
Some observers may be keen to point out that this was a weak Australia side who gave themselves little time to prepare for a superfluous series which was played in horrid conditions. No matter. No matter at all.
They succumbed last night to a 4-0 defeat in the NatWest Series, an unprecedented margin against any opposition. England beat Australia 3-0 in a limited-overs series in 1997 but this has been a comprehensive outplaying of the oldest rival to the point of being a dismantling.
England have bowled and batted better than Australia throughout - though the same could not be said of their catching - and the fifth match was merely a continuation of same. Reduced to 32 overs a side by rain, England's target was then slightly cut further by another shower.
They made light of the interruption as they won by seven wickets with 11 balls to spare. The key partnership was between their captain, Alastair Cook, and Ravi Bopara who put on 96 from 92 balls. Bopara has matured before our eyes in the past fortnight, given the responsibility of batting at No 4 and grabbing it. The selectors have yet to decide the matter but he may have resurrected his Test career.
He finished unbeaten on 52 while Cook who does this sort of thing as matter of routine was out just before the end, caught blazing away, but not before having made his fifth ODI fifty in 10 innings this year.
In some ways, it has been an unsatisfactory series because the feeling was never quite eradicated that it had been plonked into the middle of the season with no good reason. The poor weather blighted it and never relented.
There were times yesterday when it seemed the match never took place but there was a full house to see it start three and a half hours late at an Old Trafford ground that is a building site. The charming old pavilion has been stripped bare.
Australia's early batting was hapless. True, England's bowling was no less oppressive than it has been throughout the season but the tourists' main difficulties on this occasion arrived from an unlikely quarter.
Their batsmen seem to have got it into their heads that the English bowlers are coming to get them. Somehow they had negotiated the initial overs, if only because England put down three catches, continuing a sloppiness that has afflicted them in the series.
But then on came James Tredwell, the unsung Kent off spinner. He was in the side only because Tim Bresnan had sore elbow and only for his second one-day international at home. He struck with his fourth ball when David Warner, who was proceeding along his merry way despite getting away with murder with some of his strokeplay, swept and was beaten by the turn.
Panic then swept through the tourists' ranks as if they knew and understood only one thing: that there was to be no relief. In the fourth match they had been 96 for 6 and now they soon became 86 for 6. If England could catch it might have been much worse.
This element of their game has been a constant blemish. Before Australia had settled last night three chances of varying difficulty – to Jimmy Anderson, Tredwell and Samit Patel – had come and gone. Against this backdrop, wickets tumbled. There were two eminently avoidable run outs as if to show that England's ground fielding remained intact, another wicket for Tredwell and two for Bopara.
Never can an Australian touring side have been quite so continuously off the pace in this country. Apparently a happy and well-ordered bunch, they have come up short in almost department of the game.
Back home, their chairman of selectors, John Inverarity has conceded that Australia's batting resources are slender and insisted that this bunch is the best. But in exposing them to England's formidable bowling now – not least "because we don't want them making their international debuts at Lord's in a Test match" – the risk is that they are undermined for good. Still, at least they know what to expect if they make it as far as Lord's next year.
Nothing summed up matters more than the crazy run which their captain, Michael Clarke, embarked on. He guided the ball to point, set off for a single and was well short when Eoin Morgan hit the stumps with a direct throw. Clarke was determined to assert control but took no real account of the position his side were in.
They managed to salvage much by taking 25 from their last two overs. George Bailey, who had tended to misjudged the tempo in earlier matches, gauged it correctly here by smashing 46 from 41 balls with three fours and two sixes.
But if 145 for 7 represented comparative riches in the circumstances it was probably 20 short of what they had in mind when England won another important toss.
Steve Finn has been the most incisive of England's bowlers in this series and finished with seven wickets. Craig Kieswtter had 11 catches. It was not perfect but it was overwhelming.
Old Trafford scoreboard
England won toss
†M S Wade st Kieswetter b Tredwell 12/0/0/41/60
D A Warner lbw b Tredwell 32/1/4/32/44
P J Forrest run out 3/0/0/14/12
*M J Clarke run out 1/0/0/2/7
S P D Smith c Kieswetter b Bopara 21/0/2/20/19
D J Hussey c Kieswetter b Bopara 9/0/0/11/20
G J Bailey not out 46/2/3/41/52
J L Pattinson c Kieswetter b Finn 13/0/1/28/34
C J McKay not out 5/0/1/3/7
Extras (lb1 w2) 3
Total (for 7, 32 overs): 145
Fall 1-43, 2-49, 3-49, 4-55, 5-77, 6-86, 7-120.
Did not bat B W Hilfenhaus, X J Doherty.
Bowling J M Anderson 5-1-22-0, S T Finn 6-0-35-1, S C J Broad 7-0-39-0, J C Tredwell 7-1-23-2, S R Patel 3-0-17-0, R S Bopara 4-0-8-2.
*A N Cook c Clarke b Hilfenhaus 58/0/4/78/116
I R Bell c Bailey b McKay 4/0/0/4/0
I J L Trott b Clarke 10/0/2/20/50
R S Bopara not out 53/0/5/56/72
E J G Morgan not out 9/0/1/5/7
Extras (w4) 4
Total (for 3, 27.1 overs): 138
Fall 1-5, 2-34, 3-126.
Did not bat †C Kieswetter, S R Patel, J C Tredwell, S C J Broad, S T Finn, J M Anderson.
Bowling C J McKay 6-0-28-1, B W Hilfenhaus 5.1-0-19-1, J L Pattinson 6-0-34-0, M J Clarke 3-0-14-1, X J Doherty 5-0-34-0, S P D Smith 2-0-9-0.
Umpires Aleem Dar and I J Gould.
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