England fall just short against Australia

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The Independent Online

There was no Andrew Flintoff this time to provide the inspiration just when England needed it.

Not quite, although Luke Wright and Adil Rashid almost played the hero in a frantic and exciting finish as Australia took a small portion of revenge for their Ashes defeat by winning the first of seven one-day internationals in the NatWest series by just four runs.

It was the tightest of matches but the Australians just about deserved to edge it as England proved again they are a fragile side when it comes to the one-day version of the game.

The truth is England should have had enough to chase down Australia's total of 260 for five on an Oval ground renowned for its brisk and heavy run-scoring.

But while Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior and Owais Shah all got set and Wright blitzed 38 off 27 balls in a desperate bid to reach the finishing tape, no-one was able to go on and make the big score required to see the side home.

Even so, if Ryan Sidebottom could have hit the first six of his international career off the last ball then England would have scraped a success. It was that close as England ended on 256 for eight in their 50 overs.

Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Hauritz bowled superbly for Australia, taking three and two wickets respectively. but England need to find more fire in the middle of their batting line-up - someone to bridge the gap before Kevin Pietersen returns.

It is what will concern coach Andy Flower most after the hosts had looked in good shape after restricting Australia to a gettable target, following Strauss' decision to field having won the toss.

Some of that was down to England's crafty bowling, but in large part the Aussies contributed to their own downfall.

The most glaring example was the suicidal run out of opener Tim Paine, who responded to the shout of his partner Shane Watson to a prod which went straight to Paul Collingwood at point.

There are some England fielders who might allow you to get away with such rashness. Collingwood is not among them. He promptly threw down the wicket with Paine a distance out of his crease and the tone was set.

Collingwood then dismissed the dangerous Watson when the opener was bamboozled by a slower delivery which caught the leading edge and dollied back to the bowler.

Yet England did manage to apply the brake, even during the crucial powerplays.

Stuart Broad and James Anderson both bowled a good line and length but the pick of the England bowlers was Rashid, whose 10 overs cost 37 runs for no wickets but which included just two Australian boundaries.

That is miserly one-day bowling for a spinner. A captain's dream to shore up one end and it is the reason Rashid is such a genuine prospect.

Callum Ferguson completed 71 not out for his highest score in one-day internationals and Cameron White weighed in with 53.

England's reply started poorly when Andrew Strauss went for 12, caught at second slip by White amid a fiery opening spell from Brett Lee, who demonstrated exactly what cricket fans had missed when injury ruled him out of the Ashes.

Matt Prior fell to a reverse sweep which he connected with well enough but struck straight to Johnson.

Then Ravi Bopara was stumped for 49. Well, he went eventually, after being urged by the England dressing room to stand on the boundary ropes and wait for the third umpire's decision after initially walking.

It was a decent innings by a man who had endured a wretched Ashes series, averaging just 15 from four Tests before being dropped for England's final triumph.

But it did take 88 deliveries. Not exactly one-day cricket's answer to Usain Bolt.

There was some farcical running between the wickets, courtesy of Shah and Collingwood before Shah, on 40, unluckily stood on his own stumps just when he looked set for a big score.

And even more bad luck followed when Wright was run out by wicketkeeper Paine off that Lee no-ball.

Even then England could have squeezed home if Sidebottom could have hit one out of the ground.