A superb assault from Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood reopened English scars in the fourth ODI as Australia finally made their mark on this series with a nervy three-wicket win at Adelaide.
In front of a full house on Australia Day, the champion quicks rekindled memories of the Ashes with a devastating new-ball spell to reduce England’s hitherto unstoppable batting line-up to 8/5. Finding appreciable nip off the seam on a lively surface, the pair nobbled four of England’s top six for nought, with Jason Roy the first to go, driving loosely to his second delivery from Hazlewood.
Roy’s dismissal provoked a collapse that was less about English over-zealousness than Australian rampancy. Jonny Bairstow, Alex Hales and Jos Buttler, with three runs between them, were all blameless victims. Joe Root, perhaps, will look back regretfully at his top-edged pull shot to his seventh ball, though he may also point to his average of 72 since the start of 2017.
In the circumstances, England’s lower order were able to mount an impressive recovery. Eoin Morgan and Moeen Ali stopped the rot, before Chris Woakes, whose emergence as a genuinely influential No.8 in ODI cricket continues apace, smashed his second-highest score in the format to date, his 78 from 82 balls featuring fixe sixes.
Still, for a team accustomed to breaking the 300-run barrier – from 56 matches since the 2015 ICC World Cup, they have careered past the mark on 26 occasions – England’s final total of 197, all out in the 45th over, represented a seriously under-par score.
Australia’s one-day team has taken a battering in recent weeks and the prospect of a whitewash haunted their innings. It was a stop-start affair, and if it hadn’t been for Travis Head, returning to the team in place of the injured Aaron Finch and opening in Finch’s place, they would not have crept over the line.
Australia win by three wickets on the back of their early bowling efforts and Travis Head's 96, but the chase was a lot closer than they might have liked! 😳— ICC (@ICC) January 26, 2018
Scores ➡️ https://t.co/i9SiSlksbv pic.twitter.com/pdnjbBfqXp
Head’s 96 was the standout innings of the match. Compact and sturdy but with a vast array of shots, Head’s stock as a limited-overs player continues to grow exponentially. Much-admired and coveted in the T20 formats, he is beginning to impose himself on Australia’s national teams and he fell just a boundary shy of a second ODI century, and a second at Adelaide on Australia Day, after opening his account last year against Pakistan.
As all around him players lost their heads, Head kept his. David Warner, Cameron White and Steve Smith could only muster 20 runs between them, before Mitchell Marsh’s counter-attacking 32 from 30 balls wrested the initiative back in the home team’s favour.
Australia were always just ahead of the game yet familiar anxieties kept threatening to break through. Head’s dismissal, caught at mid-on off the decidedly slippery Mark Wood, was swiftly followed by Cummins running himself out, leaving Australia seven down and still 12 runs shy.
Amid mounting tension, it was left to Tim Paine, who has enjoyed a triumphant return to Australian colours and who kept wicket immaculately again today, to steady the nerves, clattering successive boundaries off Wood to ice the match. It may have come too late in the series, but Australia, on its national day of celebration, will be mightily relieved to have swerved the dreaded whitewash.