Bailey walked in with the total on 43 for 3 and his 56, coupled with useful knocks from Glenn Maxwell, Matthew Wade and James Faulkner, took Australia to 217 for 9 after it opted to bat first. A far cry from the batting beauty that was the Perth wicket, England needed to be watchful during its reply. A 64-run partnership between Joe Root, in for Gary Ballance, and Eoin Morgan put England on course for a second successive win when it reached 154 for 3, but what it didn’t expect was a rejuvenated Australian unit after the second drinks break. Both batsmen perished and Australia pounced, bowling England out for 212 with two balls to spare.
Chasing 218, England needed a solid start. Ian Bell couldn’t provide it, looking cagey from the very beginning and eventually chipping Nathan Coulter-Nile to Aaron Finch at mid-off. Though Clint McKay didn’t inspire too much confidence, Michael Clarke persisted with him. And it worked. Attempting a pull in McKay’s fourth over, Ben Stokes, batting at No. 3, only picked out Shaun Marsh at mid-wicket.
Alastair Cook and Root buckled down thereafter and added 61 runs before Australia managed to prise out a third wicket. Cook, who has mostly struggled on the tour, looked set to break the pattern in this match but ended up slapping Coulter-Nile to Bailey at short cover after a 62-ball 39.
England was meandering along at 90 for 3 at that stage, still 128 runs adrift of the target, when Morgan joined Root in the middle. Morgan, the leading scorer in the series with 242 runs coming in to this game, took the slow surface out of the equation. Carting a straight six off Shane Watson, he ensured England wasn’t about to get bogged down and the aggression rubbed off on Root. Smacking a six over mid-wicket, Root brought up his fifty in 79 balls.
The match was slipping away from them, but the break after the 35th over helped Australia collect itself. Morgan struck a four off Faulkner in the first over after the break and, searching for a second boundary, ended up spooning the bowler to Watson at mid-off after scoring 39. Faulkner, charged up, then dislodged Root for 55 off 86 balls to leave the crowd buzzing.
A third wicket for Faulkner was in the offing when Ravi Bopara skied one towards long-on. Watson, jogging from mid-on, seemed like he would reach it, but was a tad too late. But, for England, there was no encore from Jos Buttler, who had rescued England in the previous game, as he fell to Coulter-Nile.
With Tim Bresnan and Stuart Broad gone cheaply, the onus was on Bopara to deliver. But Bopara, after scoring a 44-ball 25, was dismissed under unfortunate circumstances when he missed a McKay delivery and the ball ricocheted off wicketkeeper Matthew Wade’s pads on to the stumps with Bopara’s back foot off the ground.
England needed eight runs off the last over then with one wicket in hand, and Watson had James Tredwell caught behind off the fourth ball to signal the beginning of the celebrations. Coulter-Nile and McKay finished with three wickets apiece while Faulkner returned figures of 2 for 37.
Earlier, batting after winning the toss, Australia started slowly and scratchily, with Finch looking out of sorts. He was dropped twice, with Cook putting down a chance at first slip off Chris Jordan in the second over, and then Bopara shelling an opportunity at cover off Broad in the next over. Broad ensured the reprieve didn't prove costly as he pegged Finch on the back foot with a length delivery that moved in and crashed into the stumps.
Marsh looked good, but lost Watson for a duck and then Clarke to an attempted pull off Bresnan that went off the bottom edge on to his stumps. Bailey and Marsh began the rebuilding and things looked good, albeit slow, for the most part before Marsh (36 in 52 balls) got himself out, flicking an innocuous Stokes delivery off his pads to Cook at short mid-wicket.
After 20 overs, Australia was 65 for 4, but in Maxwell, Bailey found a willing ally. The two put together 48 runs for the fifth wicket in just under ten overs before Stokes was in on the action again, getting Maxwell (22 in 35 balls) to edge one to Buttler behind the stumps.
Bailey brought up his half-century off the first ball of the batting Power Play and, with Wade, added 55 runs for the sixth wicket before the pressure of the scoring rate told on him. An attempted hoick off Stokes went off the sour spot on his bat straight to Broad at mid-on and Bailey had to go back after his 74-ball vigil that included only four boundaries – rather unlike a usual George Bailey innings.
Wade went soon after for a 46-ball 31 and with Faulkner’s 27-ball 27 being the only innings of note in the death, Australia added only 57 runs in the last ten overs. That, however, turned out to be just enough to edge England in the end.