There is something about playing Australia in one-day cricket that gives England the jitters. Twice the home side seemed to be cruising to victory here, only to surrender the advantage as the world champions drew first blood in the five-match contest.
The thrilling 3-2 Royal London series win over New Zealand earlier in the summer was supposed to signal a new age for England in the limited-overs game. Yet against Australia, it was clear that some of the old foibles remain, even in Eoin Morgan’s daring team.
When Shane Watson was run out, Australia were 193 for 6 and tottering, after winning the toss. Matthew Wade and Mitchell Marsh promptly posted a record seventh-wicket stand to take their team’s total to 305 for 6.
England needed to match their second-highest successful chase to win and they started brightly. Jason Roy scored his maiden international 50 and was playing superbly when he made a bad mistake on 67, chipping the fifth ball from off-spinner Glenn Maxwell to cover.
England still had a chance when Morgan and Jos Buttler were together, but both men were dismissed in a decisive Australian spell of three wickets in four balls as 194 for 4 became 194 for 7. Adil Rashid, the bowling star from earlier in the day, could not repeat that work with the bat and England’s race was run.
Though they can be happy with the efforts of Roy and Rashid, who took 4 for 59, England have much to ponder before tomorrow’s second match at Lord’s.
Rashid is still trying to convince at this level, but his first wicket suggested he would have a good day. Joe Burns stepped eagerly into a full toss but could only drill it back to the leg-spinner, who held the return catch. His second wicket came from a far better delivery. David Warner tried to hit inside out over extra-cover but was deceived in the flight, and he was caught by Chris Woakes at short third-man.
Warner had earlier moved to a 57-ball half-century but, like Burns before him, he was unable to make good his solid start. It was the same for the captain, Steve Smith, who was also undone by the full toss.
Attempting to clobber Rashid for six, Smith could only pick out Ben Stokes on the midwicket boundary. No wonder he thudded his bat against his pads in frustration as, like Burns, he was dismissed for 44.
There was nothing lucky about Rashid’s next wicket. George Bailey had never looked comfortable against him, so it was no surprise when he misread his intentions and was leg before.
That started a poor spell for Australia. Maxwell was well caught down the leg-side by Buttler off Stokes, and when Watson was run out after being called for a ludicrous single by Wade, the tourists were in trouble.
Wade needed to repay his team and to his credit he did so. After a slow start, he produced a fine range of strokes to reach his half-century from 40 deliveries. He was lent excellent support by Marsh and the pair posted a half-century stand from 41 balls.
Wade was once considered the future of Australian wicketkeeping and although he no longer carries that label, there is no doubt about his talent. His only escape happened on 63, when Alex Hales failed to take a sprawling catch at deep backward square-leg.
Marsh’s belligerence – he clouted a straight six off Woakes from the penultimate ball of the innings – took the Australian total past 300, which looked unlikely for much of the innings. The stand between Wade and Marsh, worth 112, was a record against England in this form and gave their team a solid total to defend.
When Roy and Hales attacked from the start and Mitchell Starc conceded 29 from his first three overs, that score began to look flimsy.
Yet after the opening pair had put on 70 Hales fell in the 12th over for 22 when he pulled a short delivery from Marsh to midwicket, and Roy then departed in similarly careless fashion.
The recalled James Taylor made 49 before his judgement failed him, too. He tried to whip Watson through midwicket, missed and was bowled, to be treated to a disdainful glare from his opponent that was pure pantomime. Soon afterwards, Stokes clipped Starc – whose second spell was as effective as his first had been poor – to midwicket and England were 172 for 4, needing 134 from 18 overs.
Morgan could not lead them home as he gloved a Watson bouncer and was caught behind. Buttler, whose good early-summer form is a mere memory, then drilled Nathan Coulter-Nile to mid-off.
From the next ball, Woakes was caught behind and neither Rashid nor Moeen Ali, despite some eye-catching shots, could lead an unlikely comeback as both went cheaply.