If the result was important - not least because the home side had to achieve it after being cut down to 33 for 5 - the manner of their recovery was of greater significance. Paul Collingwood and Geraint Jones shared a record sixth-wicket stand for England against Australia of 116. It did not take their team all the way home, but without it home would have remained a distant place.
To assert this kind of authority against Australia is to exhibit that England will not be willing to go quietly. Nobody should get carried away, but Australia's air of infallibility is under severe pressure.
Michael Vaughan, England's captain, said: "It shows a lot of courage and skill when you look as if you're down and out as we were. Sometimes low-scoring games can be the most exciting. I don't think it was a particularly good one-day wicket because it did something all day. It was a terrific performance, though, and at 33 for 5 we would have settled for a tie."
Presumably, Vaughan is keeping his most dramatic quotes in case he has to unveil them at The Oval in September. On the other hand, it will do no harm to understate England's achievement. It was not, after all, a win. When England dismissed the old enemy for 196, they might have assumed, no matter what the surface, that they had their noses in front. In tandem, Stephen Harmison and Andrew Flintoff had produced quick and menacing spells of bowling. There was a suggestion that they should not have been taken off when they were, but the case was not proven. Australia were salvaged by Mike Hussey, who made a beautifully judged 62 not out.
The tourists then responded with fast bowling of their own which had seemingly wrecked England. None of England's top five reached double figures, and Vaughan himself played a shot of dubious quality, to put it kindly. All Collingwood and Jones could do was stay vigilant and ensure the scoreboard operators never had time for a nap. The rate went up to above six an over, but this was of no matter if they kept wickets in hand.
Jones flayed two sixes, Collingwood was never as belligerent. When they went, Collingwood run out, Jones lbw 71, England were still far off. But anxiety showed in the Australian captain Ricky Ponting's face as he tried to fiddle the remaining overs from his fifth bowler. Gradually, England got closer. Wickets in hand were a problem but Ashley Giles and Darren Gough played with admirable maturity.
They needed seven off the last over, bowled by Glenn McGrath. They scrambled and slithered. Gough was run out. There were appeals for lbw off the last ball. Ponting whinged slightly about it later.
There was the problem of what to do with the NatWest Trophy, of course. But nobody seemed to mind that.Reuse content