“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” ~ George MacDonald. Australia captain Aaron Finch had said before the start of the ODI series that wicketkeeper Alex Carey is a huge asset to the Australian middle-order. Despite coming off a string of low scores and facing backlash in the previous game, Carey, true to his captain’s word, took Australia to the brink of victory from them being dead and buried at 73 for 5. While he played anchor to the innings after getting a flying start, he was immensely helped by a blitzkrieg knock from Glenn Maxwell, who scored his second ODI hundred, his first since the 2015 World Cup game against Sri Lanka, as Australia, with the help of a crucial 4 ball cameo from Mitchell Starc at the end, chased down a steep target of 303 with 2 balls to spare.
Australia could not have asked for a better start to today’s game. Electing to bat first, England lost the out-of-sorts Jason Roy first ball, driving with hard hands and edging Starc to gully. Joe Root followed next ball, playing all around an in-ducker from Starc that crashed into his front pad, and the Australians were ecstatic.
Captain Eoin Morgan walked in and in typical Eoin Morgan fashion, began with his brand of ‘positive Cricket’. Having saved the hat-trick, he followed that up by smashing a length delivery outside off from Starc to the cover fence next ball. Jonny Bairstow replicated the same shot against Hazlewood in the second over, receiving similar results to open his account.
The two batsmen completely killed off Australia’s momentum in the following few overs, dealing in only boundaries with the odd few runs between the wickets. The first six of the match came soon enough, with Bairstow dismissively pulling Cummins over the square leg fence. The fifty-run partnership followed in the 8th over, as the duo looked ominous, finding the fence at will.
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The ineffectiveness of the pacers, and the end of the powerplay overs prompted Aaron Finch to turn to his slow bowlers, and the decision reaped rewards immediately. As it turns out, David Warner is not the only one to finish this tour being dismissed by the same bowler 4 times across formats. Zampa’s second delivery, flighted outside off stump, tempted Eoin Morgan to go over the in-field, but all he could do was chip it to the safe hands of Mitchell Starc at mid-off.
A few quiet overs followed for England in which Jos Buttler tried to play himself in. Australia kept attacking, kept tempting the explosive wicketkeeper-batsman to go for the big shot, and the ploy worked eventually. Buttler, having faced 19 deliveries and played himself in, played an absolutely nothing shot off Zampa to his 20th, offering a low catch to the Australian skipper at extra cover.
Sam Billings walked in at 96/4 and joined forces with Bairstow, who, having completed his fifty, seemed to lose momentum every time a wicket fell, and brought England well and truly back into the contest. Over the course of this series, Jonny Bairstow, much like Jos Buttler over the summer, showed a completely different trait to his game, a restrained, measured approach when required to dig England out of trouble. He played out a good second spell from Pat Cummins and was circumspect of Glenn Maxwell’s dicey off-breaks, doing well to rotate the strike and keep the scoreboard ticking.
Billings, who had been cautious throughout the middle-overs as well, started to play with a little more freedom, first reverse sweeping Glenn Maxwell past cover-point and then smashing a full-length delivery from Starc into the car-parking area. He then cleared the ropes once again off Starc with an audacious lap-scoop over fine leg in the left-armer’s next over.
Two more boundaries in the next over from Zampa brought the Kent batsman his 4th fifty in ODI Cricket. His partner, Bairstow got to his hundred in the next over, with yet another pick-up shot over the square leg boundary.
Australia broke the 114-run partnership with the wicket of Sam Billings. Billings, trying to reverse sweep Adam Zampa with the spin, could only manage a top-edge, which was pouched easily by Mitchell Marsh at short-third man. Bairstow followed three overs later, bamboozled by an off-cutter from Pat Cummins that literally spun after pitching, snuck through the Yorkshireman’s bat and pad, and pegged the stumps back.
A plethora of singles and doubles and the occasional boundary in the slog overs from Chris Woakes earned him a quickfire half-century, as England set a target of 303 for Australia to break their 9-series winning streak at home. To be fair, England could have piled up a few more runs, but the untimely dismissals of Sam Billings and Jonny Bairstow did not help their case.
Although, at one stage, it seemed like Australia would have needed to bat twice to get to the set target. Warner and Australia did get off the mark with a four clipped past mid-wicket off Woakes, but then, England began asserting their dominance on the game.
Australia lost their skipper in Woakes’ next over, trapped in front trying to push forward without much feet movement. Marcus Stoinis had a reprieve when Jofra Archer at mid-on was late to react to a lofted hit from him, but five balls later, Stoinis rather daftly presented England with another chance by completely miscuing a slower delivery well outside leg stump from Woakes straight to the hands of Eoin Morgan at mid-wicket.
Much like their counterparts earlier, England turned to spin right after the end of the powerplay, and much like their counterparts earlier, the decision reaped rewards immediately. The only difference was in the type of bowler that England appointed. Joe Root, whose off-spin had outdone David Warner once before, did the track yet again. Root got the ball to stop and turn away from Warner’s outside edge, and clip the off-stump.
Root struck again in his next over, as he got the ball to turn viciously into Mitchell Marsh, taking the inside edge and bobbing up after striking his pad, and Jos Buttler completed the easiest of catches.
Every famous batting collapse in limited-overs Cricket contains a needless run out, and it was no different in this instance. Labuschagne, almost running himself out once earlier in the over, went for an ambitious run to Billings at cover-point, only to be short by yards after Buttler swiftly broke the wicket after a quick pick-up and flick from Billings.
With half the side back in the shed for less than a quarter of the target, Alex Carey and Glenn Maxwell decided that attack was the best form of defense. Maxwell, in his third delivery, simply dismissed Jofra Archer with a pick-up shot over square leg.
There are times when a particular incident, a fortunate incident makes one feel that he or she is destined to succeed despite all the odds. Something similar took place in the 20th over, bowled by Jofra Archer. Carey, rushed by a short delivery, found the fielder at third man, and it seemed like the final nail in the coffin. However, replays showed that Jofra Archer, who had never landed his front foot past the popping crease in ODI Cricket before, was found guilty of doing so right on that very delivery.
The understanding of the roles between the two batsmen was very clear, Carey took the anchor’s role, finding the fence off the bad balls, while Maxwell, previously nicknamed ‘The Big Show’ went after the bowling. Carey was finding the fence almost every second over getting to his fifty in the process, and Maxwell, with his gargantuan big hits, was forcing an issue of a change in a ball every now and then. Maxwell, like Carey, got a life as well, when Buttler failed to grasp a thin edge off Adil Rashid.
The hundred-run stand and Maxwell’s fifty followed soon afterwards, as the duo, doing their best impression of former Australian Cricketers Andrew Symonds and Michael Bevan, took the game deep into the slog overs, bringing the required run rate down in each over with well-timed boundaries and well-judged runs between the wickets.
Overs 46 and 47 saw the hundreds of both batsmen being completed, Maxwell bringing his up with a slog-sweep for six over mid-wicket, and the 200-run partnership being brought up as well, with Alex Carey clearing the square leg boundary. Australia, who were well and truly down and out at one stage required 21 from the last 3 overs.
Adil Rashid finally broke the stand when he induced a top-edge from Maxwell, who was looking for his 8th maximum of the innings, and Tom Curran completed the catch at short third man. Archer then bowled a brilliant penultimate over, conceding only 4 runs along with the crucial wicket of Alex Carey.
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Adil Rashid was entrusted to defend 10 runs off the final over with two new, lower-order batsmen at the crease. He opted to unleash his biggest weapon in his arsenal, the googly, against the left-handed Mitchell Starc. Unfortunately for Rashid, the ball landed right in the slot, and Starc, seizing his moment, tonked it high and handsomely over the long-on boundary. Two more singles followed off the next two deliveries, and then Starc hit the winning runs by dispatching a nothing delivery from Rashid past square leg for four. Australia, who were the last team to clinch an ODI series victory over England at England before yesterday, had done it yet again, achieving 10 well-deserved points as well in the process.
England 1st Innings 302/7 (50 Overs)
Bairstow 112, Billings 57, Zampa 3/51
Australia 2nd Innings 305/7 (49.4 Overs)
Maxwell 108, Carey 106, Woakes 2/46
Australia won by 3 wickets with 2 balls to spare
Series: England 1-2 Australia
Player of The Match: Glenn Maxwell
Player of The Series: Glenn Maxwell