Whisper it quietly but fings in general and Australia in particular ain't what they used to be. For the second successive match in the NatWest Series, England galloped home last night, begging the question about precisely which of these teams is No 1 in the world rankings.
Oh, the irony. England, purportedly fifth, won with quite stunning ease against a side which has been top of the charts for longer than a fifth set on No 18 court at Wimbledon, are undercooked but for the moment also bereft of inspiration, a commodity which once mislaid is never easy to relocate. There were 28 balls left when Graeme Swann smashed six over long off to overhaul Australia's total of 239 and give England victory by four wickets.
If there were a few stutters as the finishing line came into view when three wickets went down in 19 balls this was natural. England might have been reinvented but at times it is as if they can hardly believe their belief.
England now lead the five-match series 2-0 and they could effectively conclude it in Manchester on Sunday. What a day that might be for English sport if footballing events turn out favourably. It does not, of course, do to be jingoistic in these matters but the defeat of Australia at cricket and Germany at football on the same day would be a perfectly sweet sensation.
The new hero, Eoin Morgan, was once more prominent in the victory last night, which in parts was accompanied by the Welsh crowd singing "Bread Of Heaven". He followed his sumptuous unbeaten century at the Rose Bowl on Tuesday night with an innings of 52 from 64 balls. It was less expansive and the full repertoire was never quite revealed probably because there was no need.
It was, however, similarly assertive and so measured was he once more that it came as a surprise when he guided one to the wicketkeeper with 29 runs still needed. He had already seen the departure of Paul Collingwood, with whom he shared a fourth-wicket stand of 83, and Luke Wright. But this really is a new England: Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann saw them home.
The calls to keep Morgan in the Test team despite his two indifferent returns in the two matches against Bangladesh will only grow. The richness of his talent is obvious and if he forces the selectors' hand they will have a tough decision to make on the composition of the batting line-up later this summer. For now, Morgan should be relished in one-day livery.
Australia made less than they looked like doing after an explosive start, more than it seemed they would during a middle-order tumble of wickets. Either way, it did not seem quite enough, although some local sages, accustomed to the vagaries of a capricious surface opined that it was plenty.
The innings was undermined by a smart, much-needed spell from Stuart Broad and then salvaged by Cameron White. On his 24th birthday, Broad became the seventh and youngest England bowler to take 100 wickets in one-day internationals, and indeed the youngest of all bar 13 players from Asia.
He was smart, incisive and clearly seems to have benefited from the enforced rest he was given during the Test series against Bangladesh. He took the first three wickets to fall and finished with four in all as Australia went from 51 for 0 to 118 for 5. His first, to take him to his 100, seemed to be fortuitous when Tim Paine gloved a leg side ball to Craig Kieswetter behind the stumps.
In the light of subsequent events it may actually have been a cleverly constructed plot. With the tourists suddenly circumspect, the next to depart was their captain, Ricky Ponting, who pushed at one just outside off stump and fractionally short of a good length. Kieswetter pouched another chance.
The third wicket was a perfect piece of cricket from England's viewpoint. Strauss, sensing that England were on top, decided on an aggressive field, asked Swann to field at short leg, an unfamiliar position in one-day cricket.
Clarke pulled one short ball perilously off the top edge to get off the mark. But four balls later, Broad banged in another one short and the batsman could only propel the ball straight into Swann's hands.
Broad looks full of zest again. For one so young he is among the most intelligent of all limited overs bowlers. He has a bag of tricks from slower ball bouncers to cutters and he is not afraid to play any of them. He helps to symbolise an England side who have plenty of ideas and have the temerity to change them as they go along – to respond to events. It has not always happened.
Cameron White, with an unbeaten 86 after the failure of all the side's big guns, salvaged the innings from complete disaster. But it may take something still more substantial to prevent the first part of their tour heading the same way.
SWALEC Stadium: Australia have scored 239 for 7; Australia won toss
S R Watson c Kieswetter b Wright 57/0/8/59
†T D Paine c Kieswetter b Broad 16/0/3/29
*R T Ponting c Kieswetter b Broad 13/0/1/21
M J Clarke c Swann b Broad 1/0/0/7
C L White not out 86/2/7/98
M E K Hussey b Anderson 14/0/1/27
S P D Smith c Collingwood b Broad 41/0/3/53
J R Hopes run out 8/0/1/7
N M Hauritz not out 0/0/0/0
Extras (w 2, nb 1) 3
Total (7 wkts, 50 overs) 239
Fall 1-51, 2-67, 3-77, 4-94, 5-118, 6-202, 7-238.
To bat C J McKay, D E Bollinger.
Bowling J M Anderson 10-1-63-1, T T Bresnan 9-0-44-0, S C J Broad 10-0-44-4, L J Wright 9-0-38-1, M H Yardy 8-0-31-0, G P Swann 4-0-19-0.
*A J Strauss c & b Hauritz 51/2/3/56
†C Kieswetter c Paine b Bollinger 8/0/2/7
K P Pietersen c Ponting b Smith 33/0/4/38
P D Collingwood b Bollinger 48/2/2/65
E J G Morgan c Paine b Bollinger 52/0/3/64
L J Wright b Hopes 10/0/2/14
T T Bresnan not out 12/0/1/19
G P Swann not out 19/1/1/14
Extras (lb 2, w 3, nb 5) 10
Total (6 wkts, 45.2 overs) 243
Fall 1-23, 2-91, 3-109, 4-192, 5-211, 6-211.
Did not bat M H Yardy, S C J Broad, J M Anderson.
Bowling D E Bollinger 10-2-46-3, C J McKay 9.2-0-60-0, J R Hopes 5-0-30-1, N M Hauritz 10-0-56-1, S P D Smith 8-0-38-1, S R Watson 3-0-9-0.
Umpires A S Dar (Pak) & N J Llong.
TV umpire I J Gould.
Player of the match Broad.
England lead five-match series 2-0.Reuse content