England defeated Australia yesterday to win the fourth one-day international and with it the NatWest Series. At this rate, administrators will have to start asking if it is really worth continuing these one-sided contests or encourage more robust opponents, such as Bangladesh.
If the toss was significant, with the pitch granting appreciable seam movement, England took full advantage of it. They have clearly been the superior team in this series, winning all three games to have been played in some comfort whether batting or bowling.
This victory, with 13 balls left, was their ninth in succession, a record sequence for any England team, and it gave them their seventh successive one-day series win at home. Australia have played nothing like the No 1-ranked side in the world, a status they will continue to hold.
Steve Finn, bowling like the wind, took four wickets yesterday and was twice on a hat-trick. But he was but one member of an attack that applied relentless pressure from the start. On this form, it is becoming increasingly difficult to sanction Finn's exclusion from England's first-choice Test XI.
In the event Australia, from 96 for 6 in the 33rd over, made more than they ought to have done. But their total of 200 for 9 was easily hunted down. Ian Bell and Alastair Cook assembled an opening partnership of 70, their third above 50 since being paired last month on Kevin Pietersen's retirement. Bell, who has transformed his limited-overs career, made a sumptuous 69 and could be faulted only for failing to go on to a hundred. By the time he chopped on innocuously to Clint McKay the match and a 3-0 lead for England were all but secured.
All this may have no bearing whatever on the destiny of the Ashes next year but all the available evidence suggests that Australia must conjure up a couple of hitherto unknown champions if they are to have a prayer. Everything that could go wrong went wrong yesterday, from the toss to injuries to two key bowlers, Brett Lee and Shane Watson.
It was a triumph for the groundsmanship and high-quality drainage that the match went ahead. The Emirates pitch, like much of the north east, had been under water for most of the week. but the ground staff turned up for work at 3am, when the storm finally relented, and the match started on time at 10.45. England had no hesitation in inviting the tourists to bat and Australia must have known what was coming.
It duly arrived. Jimmy Anderson and Finn were irrepressible and they could have struck several times before Finn broke through in the sixth over. Dave Warner, who had already been worked over by the seam movement, nudged across the line and was struck low on the pads in front of middle stump. Given not out, the inevitable review confirmed what only umpire Nigel Llong doubted.
Next ball, Peter Forrest was half-forward to one that cut back at him and if it was less clear cut it was still hitting. The hat-trick ball seared through Michael Clarke's defences but somehow missed the stumps.
Watson and Clarke tried to repair the damage with characteristic Aussie doggedness but England allowed them no freedom to score. Watson chopped on to Tim Bresnan and George Bailey was bowled by a beauty from Ravi Bopara, of all people, which moved and bounced sharply.
Clarke, who had three escapes, had his vigil ended by Finn, and Matthew Wade's inside edge was spectacularly taken at the second attempt by Craig Kieswetter. That might have been that but David Hussey marshalled the tail expertly and played the grittiest of innings – 70 from 73 balls was electrifying in the circumstances – to take Australia to a total that might have tested England.
Bell and Cook played with calm authority as Australia offered far too much in the way of poor-length balls. It was a surprise when Cook drove tamely to cover and a bigger one when Bell misjudged an attempted run to third man. But it was a chase custom-made for Jonathan Trott, who never had to move out of second gear, and Bopara did his Test claims no harm at all. It was expertly done. Almost routine.
England won toss
S R Watson b Bresnan 28/1/2/54
D A Warner lbw b Finn 2/0/0/19
P J Forrest lbw b Finn 0/0/0/1
*M J Clarke b Finn 43/0/4/85
G J Bailey b Bopara 9/0/1/10
D J Hussey c Anderson b Bresnan 70/0/9/73
†M S Wade c Kieswetter b Finn 0/0/0/1
B Lee c Broad b Anderson 27/1/2/41
C J McKay c Bresnan b Anderson 6/0/1/11
J L Pattinson not out 8/0/0/6
B W Hilfenhaus not out 0/0/0/0
Extras (lb2 w4 nb1): 7
Total (for 9, 50 overs): 200
Fall 1-6, 2-6, 3-57, 4-68, 5-96, 6-96, 7-166, 8-174, 9-194.
Bowling J M Anderson 10-3-34-2, S T Finn 10-2-37-4, T T Bresnan 9-0-46-2, S C J Broad 9-1-34-0, R S Bopara 9-0-29-1, S R Patel 3-0-18-0.
*A N Cook c sub b McKay 29/0/5/46
I R Bell b McKay 69/0/9/94
I J L Trott not out 64/0/4/102
R S Bopara not out 33/0/3/47
Extras (w4, nb2): 6
Total (for 2, 47.5 overs): 201
Fall 1-70, 2-136.
Did Not Bat E J G Morgan, †C Kieswetter, S R Patel, T T Bresnan, S C J Broad, S T Finn, J M Anderson.
Bowling B Lee 2.2-1-12-0, B W Hilfenhaus 9.4-0-36-0, C J McKay 10-1-29-2, J L Pattinson 10-1-46-0, S R Watson 1-0-5-0, M J Clarke 5-0-17-0, D J Hussey 8.5-0-48-0, D A Warner 1-0-8-0.
Umpires M Erasmus (SA) and N J Llong (Eng).
TV Umpire Aleem Dar (Pak). Match referee: J Srinath (Ind).
England win by 8 wkts and lead five-match series 3-0.
Man of the match S T Finn (Eng).Reuse content