Form is always a fickle companion. It had left Eoin Morgan so far in the lurch during July that he needed a rest last month. Morgan came back as England’s captain in the one-day series assuring everyone, without much evidence, that they were in step again.
How right he was. Morgan has had a wonderful run against Australia, which he sustained yesterday with a beautifully controlled innings of 92. It took a stunning catch to end it – the first of two by Glenn Maxwell – but by then England were most of the way to a victory which levelled matters at 2-2.
The deciding match is at Old Trafford tomorrow. But whatever happens, England have demonstrated by coming from 2-0 down that there was nothing counterfeit about their rebirth. They are, as it were, genuinely in the game again.
Morgan took 40 balls over his first 20 runs and needed only 52 for his next 70. When it seemed he would see his side home in chasing 300 to win, his square drive was caught by Maxwell wide to his right. But the late middle order was in good order, crisp and no nonsense. There were 10 balls and three wickets to spare when David Willey, ending the match as spectacularly as he began it, drilled the winning six high into the Rugby Stand.
England could hardly have wished for a better start. Hardly, that is, except for an unfortunate lapse they would quickly rue. With the early autumn (or late summer, as it is up north) sun breaking through and the new ball still offering movement, the tourists were 30 for 3 by the ninth over.
All the wickets fell to Willey, playing for the first time in this series. He provided a perfect example of what a skilful left-arm swing bowler is capable of at the start of a one-day innings. He bowled Joe Burns off an inside edge, he removed Steve Smith lbw with one that was full and swung late and then had Aaron Finch caught behind, nibbling at a ball going across him.
Despite the benign nature of the pitch, this was trouble for Australia. It would have been big trouble if Maxwell’s edged drive off Mark Wood had been caught at second slip by Jason Roy. In moving to his right, Roy seemed to push his hands at the ball and the chance went.
Reprieved, Maxwell went on a spree, unfurling a rapid succession of glorious shots, some orthodox, some improvised, all fearless. England had another chance to stop his gallop on 35 when Adil Rashid muffed a chance at long leg. Rashid then bowled the full toss off which Maxwell reached his fifty with a suitably dismissive six.
But with his second ODI century racing into view and his fourth-wicket partnership with the less expansive George Bailey worth 137, Maxwell misjudged a reverse sweep and was bowled by Moeen Ali. England were rejuvenated and over the next 10 overs curtailed Australia’s rate, largely thanks to Moeen, whose five overs in this period yielded only 15 runs.
When they then took three wickets in 10 balls, it seemed that they had restored their early dominance. Australia, however, came back again. Helped by England struggling for an appropriate length towards the end, Matthew Wade and John Hastings, appearing in his first ODI since 2011, plundered 65 runs from the final five overs.
The England reply started badly when Alex Hales was lbw to his second ball, a rapid, swinging yorker from Pat Cummins. This has been a poor series for Hales with declining returns – 22, 18, 9, 0 – and England must decide shortly whether to stick with him. Considering the damage he can wreak, and often has in Twenty20, they ought to persevere a while yet.
Roy has overtaken Hales in the pecking order and for the fourth time in the series played confidently. But it was James Taylor who now took the game to the tourists with some joyous driving. His match-winning 101 at Old Trafford earlier this week contained five fours in its 114 balls; now he struck six fours in his first 17 balls.
Roy really does look the real deal as a limited-overs batsman, but yet again he was out disappointingly when he was effectively in charge, this time seeming to check his shot which ended with him chipping to mid-on. When Taylor was caught by Wade flinging himself full length to his left to hold what had seemed an immaculately judged glance, England needed to regroup.
Morgan and Ben Stokes did it in a measured style. Stokes was rarely fluent but he stuck at it for long enough to share a pivotal partnership of 91. England, through a studiously aggressive Jonny Bairstow, a measured Moeen and a rampant Liam Plunkett, caught by Maxwell after calmly parrying the ball on the boundary, always had it under control afterwards.Reuse content