First blood to England. There is a long, long way to go and plenty of time for Australia to respond on bigger stages than this, but yesterday in the opening encounter there was clear water between the sides.
In the long term it may come to mean nothing if Australia can somehow regroup, construct a more coherent strategy and rediscover the craft of batting. Eight months and 26 matches may not be enough for them to do so.
In the short term, England's win by 48 runs, adorned by a masterful exhibition of seam and swing bowling by Jimmy Anderson, gives them a splendid opportunity of qualifying for the later stages of the Champions Trophy. One more group victory, against either New Zealand or Sri Lanka, will probably be enough to take them into the semi-finals.
This was a ripping if not gripping win for England. Australia seem to have profound problems, and one in particular may be insurmountable. They are trying to ensure that their captain, Michael Clarke, is fit. He was badly missed yesterday, his back responding slowly to treatment in a London clinic.
Australia may dearly wish to win this competition for the third successive time, but not as much as they crave regaining the Ashes. To have the remotest hope of doing that they need Clarke to bat.
England produced a consummate bowling and fielding display defending a total of 269 for 6, which was short of what they ought to have made and what many observers, misreading the pitch, wrongly assumed would be insufficient.
If Anderson was exemplary and became England's leading wicket-taker in one-day internationals, then Stuart Broad was not far behind. While they created the template at the start of the innings, their colleagues followed it perfectly.
Tim Bresnan has rediscovered his zip since his elbow operation and all three fast bowlers produced a rigid accuracy and found movement that was absent when Australia bowled. James Tredwell, a late replacement for Graeme Swann, who awoke with a stiff back, lost nothing by comparison. For a man who has yet to take a first-class wicket this season he was masterful in his control.
At no stage of their innings were Australia allowed even a sniff of the target. Anderson and Broad, opening the bowling for the 30th time in a one-day international, were absorbing to watch. They did not go hunting for wickets but allowed neither width nor easy runs. Something had to give, and Australia worked themselves into a precarious position where they were losing wickets and failing to keep up with the rate.
It made nonsense of the fear that England did not have enough runs, though the total made it possible to reopen the debate about their batting policy. Their plan broadly is to tootle along for a large part of the innings, batting assertively but sedately with the intention of scoring a truckload of runs at the back end.
The expectations on the sluggers are therefore immense. The top scorer for either side yesterday was Ian Bell, and his 91 from 115 balls showed him at his considerably charming best for much of it. But he was out with more than 12 overs left when a century and much more was there for the taking. It was both a relative success and a relative failure.
Bell and Alastair Cook gave the innings a dynamic start with 54 from the first 10 overs but it was more becalmed after that. For the third time in four one-day innings this summer, Cook got out having got in, this time driving at a wide one.
The second-wicket pair, Bell and Jonathan Trott, bedded in on a piece of turf they know intimately and there was an air of inevitability about their century partnership. But there were times when they looked so at home that they may as well have been batting in slippers and cardigans. It was all a little too homely, but equally it was what they do.
There was some skilful bowling and Australia's George Bailey rang the changes smartly, not bad for a temporary captain who said his job amounted to winning the toss (which he failed to do, incidentally). Ravi Bopara and Bresnan injected some oomph into the latter stages after Jos Buttler, accorded a rapturous welcome by a crowd hoping he might repeat his pyrotechnic exhibition against New Zealand last Wednesday, was out second ball. The game remains a stern mistress.
Australia could not keep wickets intact. David Warner, increasingly a man without a plan, tired of the containment and was ensnared by Broad with a waft behind.
Perhaps the key to it with Clarke on his back was Shane Watson. When he was caught off an inside edge which flew to point, the complexion of the pursuit changed.
Bailey scored a diligent fifty, James Faulkner a surprisingly rapid one from 38 balls, but they never escaped the vice. There is indeed a long, long way to go and, for Australia, it must seem precisely that.
England won toss
*A N Cook c Wade b Watson 30/0/3/42
I R Bell b Faulkner 91/0/7/115
I J L Trott c Wade b Starc 43/0/1/56
J E Root c Bailey b McKay 12/0/1/17
E J G Morgan b McKay 8/0/0/12
R S Bopara not out 46/1/3/37
†J C Buttler b Faulkner 1/0/0/2
T T Bresnan not out 19/0/2/20
Extras (lb12, w6, nb1) 19
Total (for 6, 50 overs) 269
Fall 1-57, 2-168, 3-189, 4-189, 5-212, 6-213.
Did not bat S C J Broad, J C Tredwell, J M Anderson.
Bowling M A Starc 10-0-75-1; M G Johnson 8-0-44-0; C J McKay 10-0-38-2; S R Watson 7-0-26-1; J P Faulkner 10-0-48-2; A C Voges 3-0-13-0; M R Marsh 2-0-13-0.
D A Warner c Buttler b Broad 9/0/1/21
S R Watson c Cook b Bresnan 24/0/1/40
P J Hughes lbw b Root 30/0/3/55
*G J Bailey c Root b Tredwell 55/0/2/69
A C Voges b Bresnan 15/0/1/23
M R Marsh c Morgan b Anderson 5/0/1/12
†M S Wade c Buttler b Anderson 1/0/0/4
J P Faulkner not out 54/1/5/42
M G Johnson c Morgan b Bopara 8/0/0/10
M A Starc b Anderson 5/0/0/8
C J McKay not out 7/0/0/17
Extras (lb6, w1, nb1) 8
Total (for 9, 50 overs) 221
Fall 1-17, 2-47, 3-94, 4-127, 5-134, 6-136, 7-151, 8-175, 9-190.
Bowling J M Anderson 10-0-30-3; S C J Broad 10-2-35-1; T T Bresnan 10-1-45-2; J C Tredwell 10-1-51-1; J E Root 5-0-20-1; R S Bopara 5-0-34-1.
Umpires H D P K Dharmasena (SL) and M Erasmus (SA).
TV Umpire B F Bowden (NZ).
Match referee J Srinath (Ind).
Man of the match I R Bell (England).
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