Morgan century in vain as hosts overhaul target in 39.5 overs in tri-series opener
David Warner‘s century eclipsed Eoin Morgan‘s effort as Australia beat England by three wickets in the first One-Day International of the tri-series at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Friday (January 16).
To be fair, England wasn't even allowed to portray qualities fairly alien to it after Morgan, the new ODI captain, chose to bat first on a sweltering afternoon. Mitchell Starc rocked England with two wickets off the first three deliveries of the match, and had it not been for a wonderfully crafted seventh ODI century from Morgan, Australia would have polished England off long before it managed 234.
The bowlers had kept their end of the bargain. Now it was up to the batsmen to ensure the host nation got its campaign off to a winning start and so they did, rocketing to 235 for 7 with 61 deliveries to spare to pick up the bonus point as well.
The chase was masterminded by two men who seemingly know not how to fail just at the moment. Warner and Steven Smith linked up with Australia comfortably placed at 71 for 2. While Warner kept teeing off at regular intervals, Smith took his time playing himself in. In their own contrasting ways, they played equal parts in a third-wicket stand of 87 that only ended when Smith was bowled while trying to manufacture an inside-out drive against Moeen Ali.
Warner didn’t offer any such gifts. He rode his luck on the odd occasion as a drive fell just out of reach of the fielder or went in the air through an unmanned area, and was distinctly lucky to be ruled not out as he attempted a revere sweep off Moeen’s first ball when on 50. For the most part, though, he was in total command, muscling the ball through the infield or effortlessly clearing the cordon in a spectacular exhibition of uninhibited ball-striking.
Aaron Finch and Shane Watson both threw it away after getting in to Chris Woakes and Chris Jordan respectively, but Warner was in no mood to make anything but the most of his rich vein of form that has now netted him four international hundreds in his last nine hits. With James Anderson left out, England went with an all-pace attack and it was obvious that Morgan missed James Tredwell’s specialist offspin, even as Moeen was tidy and occasionally threatening with his own offspinners.
Woakes, the tidiest if not necessarily the most threatening of the bowlers, and the quest for the bonus point triggered brief artificial excitement as George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell were dismissed in four deliveries. Brad Haddin smacked Stuart Broad for three straight fours, and while both he and Warner fell in trying to up the pace, James Faulkner secured victory and the bonus point – the former with ease, the latter only just.
England’s total, was made possible only because the captain contributed more than half the team’s tally. Starc and Pat Cummins, the only two out-and-out pacemen in the playing XI, fused swing and pace to a nicety to rip the heart out of the England top order. Starc ducked one in first ball to clang the in-form Ian Bell in front, then accounted for James Taylor two deliveries later with a full inswinging delivery that struck the right pad dead adjacent to the stumps, and Cummins joined in the fun in the fourth over when Joe Root, driving on the up, unerringly picked out Watson at first slip.
It wasn’t what Morgan would have envisaged when he won the toss. 12 for 3, 3.4 overs bowled.
Morgan then linked up with Moeen, who looked in no trouble at all as he called his wristy strokeplay into action. Starc was whip-driven over long-on, Watson creamed over cover, and England was steadily recovering when Moeen threw his hand away, driving Faulkner to sweeper cover, strategically positioned by Bailey well inside the mandatory Power Play overs for precisely that stroke.
Australia played only two out-and-out pacers, opting for Faulkner’s control and change of pace ahead of the exuberance of Gurinder Sandhu and Kane Richardson. Faulkner was excellent all the way through, as was Xavier Doherty, the left-arm spinner who got through his 10 overs on the trot for impressive figures of 1 for 38. Like fellow left-armers Starc and Faulkner, Doherty too picked up a wicket in his first over when Ravi Bopara was defeated by slight turn and a little extra bounce, his cut smartly taken low in front at point by Glenn Maxwell.
Even as the carnage was unfolding at the other end, Morgan looked as comfortable as was possible on a surface that was two-paced in the afternoon, but held up far better under the lights. Favouring the offside for boundaries and industrious as he looked for singles alongside the spectacularly becalmed Jos Buttler, Morgan began another period of rebuilding. The idea was to keep wickets in hand going deep into the innings, and if it meant not a single boundary between overs 17 and 34, so be it.
Having done all the hard work, Buttler succumbed to his first big shot, picking out sweeper cover to end a stand of 67. At 136 for 6 with more than 15 overs left, Morgan looked in danger of running out of partners but fortunately for him and England, first Woakes and then Jordan were both up to the task of keeping the captain company.
Morgan went from watchful to wondrous in the bat of an eyelid. His first 50 came off 88 deliveries, with four fours and a six. As he put his foot on the pedal, the boundaries cascaded with stunning regularity. He only took 39 deliveries for his second fifty, and by the time he fell on the pull to Starc, who like Cummins took some late tap, Morgan had shaken off a drought that had brought him just one half-century in his last 19 innings. This ton came almost one year to the day since his previous one (January 17, 2014), also against Australia in Brisbane. On that occasion, Australia squeaked home by one wicket on the back of a last-wicket stand of 57. This time around, there was no such drama.
To see the full scorecard of the match between Australia and England, please click here.