Thriller! England beat Australia in tri-series opener

England 253-6 (49.3 overs) beat Australia 252 (48.3 overs)

Paul Collingwood's second consecutive hundred led England to victory over Australia in the first Commonwealth Bank Series final in Melbourne.

The 30-year-old hit an unbeaten 120, his highest score in one-day internationals, to guide his side to a four-wicket win at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

Fittingly, he finished things when he struck Nathan Bracken through midwicket for a single in the final over of the match.

A late stutter threatened to derail England's bid but, with 25 needed from the final three overs, Collingwood took responsibility.

Twice in as many balls he shovelled boundaries to the legside off Shane Watson to alter the balance.

And with veteran Paul Nixon beavering away at the other end to rotate the strike, he drove another four down the ground off Glenn McGrath to leave four needed from seven deliveries.

Collingwood engineered the second fightback of the day in tandem with Ian Bell.

The pair shared an impressive stand of 133 for the fourth wicket to counter early Australian dominance in the chase of 253.

Warwickshire's Bell took advantage of being dropped by Glenn McGrath, at deep square-leg off Nathan Bracken, to hit 65.

McGrath's gaffe came with Bell on 18 and England vulnerable on 33 for three.

Andrew Flintoff's men lost those three wickets inside the first half-a-dozen overs, in fact, to heavily jeopardise their chance of going 1-0 up in the best-of-three final.

Openers Mal Loye and Ed Joyce succumbed to paceman Brett Lee - the former the victim of a poor leg-before decision by Australian umpire Daryl Harper - while Andrew Strauss was pinned lbw by Bracken after playing around his front pad.

Initially intent on containing the damage, the fourth-wicket duo upped the tempo impressively.

From a position of 41 for three after 15 overs, they launched 48 from the next six.

Collingwood, whose hundred against New Zealand earlier this week was integral to getting to the finals, hoisted McGrath for a huge six during that period.

A collection of ones and twos kept the required rate down to a reasonable level but when Lee produced a fearsome yorker to knock back Bell's off stump Australia had a sniff.

They relinquished it, however, when a double error allowed lives for both Collingwood and captain Flintoff from the same piece of play.

Collingwood turned to the legside off McGrath and came back for two - but rather than take the bails off from Michael Hussey's throw, wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist relayed to the bowler's end where a combination of McGrath and Brett Lee fudged the opportunity.

Clearer thinking and more poise would have accounted for either batsman - Flintoff was on two while Collingwood was unbeaten on 71.

Flintoff was also put down before he added another run by substitute Mitchell Johnson at extra cover off the bowling of spinner Brad Hogg.

Just as the game appeared in the bag, however, Flintoff - whose only boundary in an innings of 35 was a six off Hogg - feathered a catch behind off Watson.

When Jamie Dalrymple was sacrificed in the following over, run out trying to steal a single to point, 28 were still required from 23 deliveries.

Earlier England produced an outstanding riposte in the field dismiss the Australians for 252.

The home country appeared poised to post a huge total as they entered the final 20 overs of the innings on 170 with nine wickets intact.

But a stunning catch from Collingwood terminated Ricky Ponting's run-a-ball 75 and triggered a clatter of nine wickets inside 19 overs.

Collingwood also effected two run-outs to cap a fine day in the field personally, among an otherwise below-par England display.

Stolen singles were a feature of the 138-run stand for the second wicket - but Ponting and Matthew Hayden should have been parted in the 29th over.

Ponting pushed into the offside off Monty Panesar and his initial call committed Hayden to a run. Dalrymple seized on the ball but an appalling under-arm return and clumsiness from Panesar, who demolished the stumps at the bowler's end, saw the opportunity wasted.

Ultimately England got away with it, however, as, in Panesar's next over, Ponting cracked a cut to short cover, where Collingwood clung on low to his left.

Hayden followed soon afterwards to off-spinner Dalrymple for 82, after towering a catch to long on.

And England made light of being without the injured Michael Vaughan as the final six Aussie wickets tumbled for 33.

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