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England v Australia, 2nd ODI, Old Trafford – England bottom 5 set up series finale

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Cricket is a game of glorious uncertainties. Never at any stage until the 81st over of the 2nd ODI between England and Australia would one have felt that it would take three more days to determine the series winners, even after vital cameos from Tom Curran and Adil Rashid late in the England innings propelled them to their eventual score of 231. Although there were contributions from the top-order, it was England’s bottom 5, who won them the game with both bat and ball, aided by some well-judged decisions on the field from skipper Eoin Morgan.

Having won the toss and batted, England lost the free-flowing Jonny Bairstow for a duck 4 overs in. Mitchell Starc set the right-handed Yorkshireman up by bringing the first ball of the over back in and getting him to move forward and defend, following that up by getting the next ball to dart away, enforcing a similar reaction from Bairstow, which resulted in a thick outside edge, pouched by Alex Carey behind the stumps.

Having had a frustrating summer so far, plagued by injuries and low individual scores, Jason Roy, despite playing and missing on several occasions today, seemed to be in good touch, utilizing the depth of his crease as well on occasions. An over prior to Bairstow’s dismissal, he smashed Hazlewood to the fence thrice, once off his backfoot past point.

There’s a song from the ‘70s by American country music artist Jerry Reed titled, “When you’re hot, you’re hot, and when you’re not, you’re not”. The phrase aptly described what was to follow for Roy soon afterward. Joe Root pushed a length delivery from Starc to cover-point and called his partner for a tight single. The single went from tight to improbable once Marcus Stoinis swooped in and picked the ball up, and ultimately turned to demise for Roy once he threw the stumps down at the striker’s end in the same motion, catching him short by yards.

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With their initial offensive force being wiped out, the middle-order duo of Root and Morgan took the responsibility of building an innings-stabilizing partnership on a tough wicket to bat on. Even though Root hit consecutive fours off Cummins with a new bat after wrecking the one he walked out to bat with, the two England captains across formats maintained a very sedate approach until the 20th over. Root then found the middle of the bat twice against Stoinis, the results being a four through extra cover and a six over mid-wicket.

It was Adam Zampa, the leg-spinner, who ultimately reaped the reward from the pressure created by the pacers. Joe Root, in the most Joe Root-like manner, got out to an inexplicably loose shot, having played nearly 80 balls, in a One Dayer at that. Zampa found turn after pitching his second ball just a tad full. Root, maintaining social distance with the area where the ball landed, casually drove at it, and invariably edged it low to Aaron Finch at first slip, who did well to cling on.

Despite occasional boundaries from Morgan, wickets continued to tumble for England as the run rate remained static. Buttler was trapped leg-before to Cummins playing down the wrong line, Morgan followed suit three overs later, adjudged leg-before after a well-judged review overturned the on-field umpire’s decision. Sam Billings failed to replicate the magic from Friday, daftly trying to cut a rather full and skiddy delivery from Zampa off his backfoot, he played on in the process, resulting in the end to his 28-ball struggle in the middle.

Woakes and Sam Curran nicked behind soon afterward, as England looked set to be bowled out for well within their allotted 50 overs for a meager score. Tom Curran and Adil Rashid, England’s number 9 and 10, were determined to rotate the strike, gather as many runs as possible, and find the boundary at least once every over.

The gameplan helped England get to 200 with two overs in hand as the duo brought up a 50-run partnership. To everyone’s disbelief, the last two overs fetched 33 runs for England, out of which 17 came from Rashid’s blade. Powered by a partnership that turned out to be the main difference between the two sides, England set a tricky target of 232 for the Australians to wrap the series up.

Australia

The partnership that made all the difference eventually

For a fourth consecutive time this summer, Jofra Archer produced an absolute peach of a delivery to get rid of David Warner, whose struggles on English soil against pace bowling continues across formats. Archer hit the deck really hard, causing the ball to rise and get big on the left-hander, who could only fend it behind to Buttler’s mitts.

Marcus Stoinis, in at 3, intended to take command over the game rather than knuckle down and settle in. Four balls in, he skipped down the wicket to Woakes and bludgeoned him over his head into the stands. Unfortunately for Australia, his counter-attacking vigil ended before it had begun when Archer got him to fend a short ball away from his throat, resulting in a leading edge and a simple catch for Buttler.

A partnership of over 100 runs followed between Finch and new batsman Marnus Labuschagne, one that threatened to close the game out for the visitors. The duo braved blows to the helmet, certain run out opportunities, and an intense initial spell from Tom Curran as Finch, who took a liking to Adil Rashid’s leg-break today, reached his fifty by sweeping a nothing delivery from the wrist-spinner to the long-stop boundary.

Archer and Woakes were brought back halfway to the 30th over to give England a much-needed breakthrough. The 100-run partnership was brought up and the duo almost saw the two biggest threats in England’s bowling card, when Labuschagne, two short of his half-century, was pinned on the pads by a nip-backer from Woakes.

While umpire Michael Gough considered the impact to be marginally outside the line of off-stump, he had to alter his decision a few moments later, as upon reviewing, the ball-tracker showed that Labuschagne was hit well within the line, and the ball would have crashed onto the middle stump.

And then, England’s luck, and the stumps, both started to lighten up. Archer, in his penultimate over, seamed one away from Marsh, the ball kept a little low as well, and the off-stump was pegged back. The well-set Aaron Finch, who was looking good for a hundred and guiding Australia home all this while, was beaten by an away seamer as well, this time by Woakes. Caught on the crease, he could merely push his bat at it to no avail, as the stumps were rearranged once again.

Maxwell, in at number 7, never looked comfortable amidst the shift of momentum in the game. Having fended and unconvincingly blocked Archer away for 4 deliveries of his final over, he comprehensively missed the fifth one, and the Royal London emblemed poles behind him flapped around upon impact with the ball.

Upon completion of both their premium seamers spells, England captain Eoin Morgan instantly turned to Adil Rashid. It was down to Alex Carey and the rest of the lower order to get Australia home on a dry, dodgy surface. Cummins, having been beaten by a couple of leg-breaks, released a little bit of pressure with an audacious hit against the spin from Rashid that carried into the stands and kept the required rate under check.

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Unfortunately, the optimism he brought to the Australian camp quickly faded away; playing a cross-batted swipe to an in-ducker from Sam Curran batting outside his crease, he only managed to drag the ball back onto his stumps. Starc followed the next ball, needlessly nicking the left-armer behind to Jos Buttler, who did well by lunging to his left and completing the catch with both hands.

Alex Carey had a great opportunity to guide his side home from an improbable situation today. But for that, he needed to go after the bowling himself right away and not coax Zampa to do so with his approach of leaving it until the end, which led to the fall of the latter.

Clearly, Carey still has a lot of work to do in terms of batting with the tail. He exposed Zampa to the strike during the leg-spinner’s stay in the middle, and he continued to do so to the last man, Josh Hazlewood. Hazlewood, to his credit, did a good job of rotating the strike and saving his wicket, but the asking rate kept climbing after every over.

Carey finally decided to go on the offense once Rashid was brought back in the 47th over. The Australian keeper, with the aid of his partner, took off that over and 10 more off the following one from Sam Curran, with two cracking hits to the fence.

Carey’s approach of leaving it till the end did not pay off eventually. With 25 required off the last 9 deliveries of the match, the South Australian skipped out and took a blind swing at a googly from Rashid, made no contact whatsoever, and Jos Buttler, his opposite number, swiftly whipped the bails off to confirm an England victory. The two sides meet again on Wednesday, the final occasion of men playing International Cricket in England this summer, to compete for a series win.

Brief scores:

England 1st Innings 231/9 (50 Overs)

Morgan 42, Root 39, Zampa 3/36

Australia 2nd Innings 207 all out (48.4 Overs)

Finch 73, Labuschagne 48, Woakes 3/32

England won by 24 runs

Player of The Match: Jofra Archer