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Listless Australia slides to 48-run defeat

England makes a sizeable stride towards the semi-finals as bowling attack complements good work done by Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara in the first half of the match

Listless Australia slides to 48-run defeat - Cricket News
George Bailey, the Australian captain, plays a shot.
If the recent rule changes to One-Day Internationals were designed to make 50-over contests more entertaining, then England, it seems, did not get the memo. Not that Alastair Cook’s side will care. Fresh from a 2-1 series reversal against New Zealand, it beat its ancient rivals by 48 runs at Edgbaston on Saturday (June 8) and made a sizeable stride towards the semi-finals.  

A meeting between a team dressed in red and one in yellow ought to have been a fiery combination but this was a tame – at times turgid – match. Edgbaston was packed but rarely was this ground, renowned for his good-natured rowdiness, stoked into any sort of rabble-rousing.  

Only at the end of England’s dogged innings, when Ravi Bopara was smashing 46 from 37 balls, was there any evidence of pre-Ashes banter emanating from the stands, though the crowd did reawaken when Mitchell Johnson, a favourite Australian anti-hero in these parts, came in to bat at 151 for 7.  

None of the locals will complain about the result but this was victory by strangulation rather than destruction. Australia’s target of 270, on a good pitch, appeared achievable at the break but its batsmen, desperately missing the injured Michael Clarke, were never in it. The last third of their innings was an exercise in massaging their net run-rate in case it should be required as a tiebreaker to seal a semifinal place.  

James Faulkner, whose left-arm seam was full of control and variety, knocked up a late-order half-century that was as irrelevant – at least to the match result – as it was impressive. He hit one of only two sixes in the match.   England’s frontline quicks produced controlled swing – conventional and reverse – of the highest class and proved impossible to get away. James Anderson became England’s leading ODI wicket-taker when he took Australia’s fifth wicket, passing Darren Gough’s total of 234.  

Even England’s high-risk strategy of relying on two part-timers to complete its fifth bowler allocation was justified. Bopara’s first two overs went for 17 but the offspin of Joe Root proved highly effective, left-hander Phil Hughes at times making the occasional bowler look like Jim Laker. Graeme Swann, who missed the game with a stiff back, must have raised a smile at the prospect of bowling to Hughes in the Ashes next month. Having been stifled, Hughes was lbw to Root playing a horrid, desperate-looking slog sweep. Swann’s replacement James Tredwell was a worthy understudy.  

England’s ability to achieve reverse swing from so early in the innings was remarkable and even prompted the Australian bowler Dirk Nannes to observe on BBC radio, “I’ve played in Twenty20 games where it’s gone after 12 to 15 overs but you do need to have someone to be pushing the boundary of what’s legal.”  

The explosive potential of David Warner was snuffed out in the sixth over when he tried to cut Stuart Broad and was superbly caught by Jos Buttler, the wicketkeeper. Shane Watson has the capability to anchor the innings but Tim Bresnan did him, angling the ball sharply into his pads. He was given out lbw until it emerged that he had got an inside-edge that had looped up to Alastair Cook running in from gully.  

George Bailey then assumed the pivotal role but without conviction. The last throw of the dice came after 32 overs when Australia, on 124 for 3, took its batting Power Play. But off the fourth ball Adam Voges was bowled through a large gate by another Bresnan inswinger.  

The brutish Mitchell Marsh, winning his second one-day cap 18 months after his first, offered an almost invisible glimmer when he smashed Bresnan for four to long leg. But the loss of three wickets for seven runs in 21 balls killed the contest.  

Australia’s inability to get its innings moving put England’s very deliberate batting display into its proper context. The pitch, which had seemed like a belter for batting in the initial overs of the match, showed itself to be slower, and a touch two-paced, than earlier indicated.  

The local Warwickshire pair of Ian Bell, who made 91, and Jonathan Trott developed England’s platform with a second-wicket stand of 111. But Trott’s departure was the first of five wickets for 43 in 9.3 overs. The softly-softly approach leaves little margin for error and at that stage it looked like England was in deep trouble. Bopara and Bresnan rescued the situation with an unbroken stand of 56 from 6.5 overs.  

Australia’s all-seam attack had much to recommend it but Mitchell Starc, a key component of their Ashes attack, saw his first ball – the opening delivery of the match – dispatched to the square-leg boundary. His ten overs went for 75 and towards the end of the innings he found himself a victim of boundary-edge baiting in front of the sprawling Eric Hollies Stand, an exchange that prompted him to kiss the badge on his jersey.  

Australia’s out-cricket was sloppy at times. Matthew Wade, the wicketkeeper, found himself often stretching for wayward throws. On one occasion he tripped over Trott’s bat in the process of retrieving a return from the field and seemed to think with the England batsman had deliberately obstructed him. Umpire Kumar Dharmasena had to intervene to calm Wade as he served Trott a sustained verbal volley. When Wade was Australia’s sixth man out, Trott’s body language suggested that he returned the compliment.

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