It wasn’t a dead rubber, but neither was it a particularly competitive finish to the series. Led by a strong performance from their fast bowlers, who rolled England for 138, Australia cruised to an eight-wicket victory in the final ODI Old Trafford and ended their three-month tour of England, which featured the disappointment of another failed Ashes campaign, with a 3-2 win in the one-day series.
Mitchell Marsh and John Hastings might hardly be the most intimidating pair of fast bowlers but it was they who caused England’s collapse, between them collecting seven of the nine wickets that fell. Aaron Finch and George Bailey then steered Australia past their target with ease. In the end, the fans barely saw half the amount of overs they expected – 57.2 in total, made up of 33 in England’s innings and 24.2 in the chase.
It was not only the result that was of concern for England, though. James Taylor captained England in the field after Eoin Morgan was struck on the helmet by a short delivery from Mitchell Starc and was forced to retire hurt during England’s innings. Morgan was accompanied off the field by England’s medical staff and took no further part in the game.
But there was little Taylor could do with such small total on the board. Two wickets fell before the delayed lunch break – Joe Burns slashed at a wide one and edged David Willey behind for a duck, and Steven Smith edged behind off Mark Wood for 12 – but after the resumption it was a procession towards the target. Finch and Bailey ensured there were no further wobbles.
Finch struck 11 fours and one six on his way to an unbeaten 70 from 64 balls, and Bailey ended up not out on 41 from 45 deliveries. The winning runs came with a thick edge to the third-man boundary from Bailey, and Australia had something to celebrate at last. It was their bowlers who had set the victory up in the early stages of the day.
In an eventful first over Jason Roy was twice given out lbw off Starc by umpire Joel Wilson. The first Roy reviewed and was found to have inside-edged onto his pad; the second he chose not to review and should have – replays suggested Starc’s delivery would have swung well down leg. Roy had scored 4 and Alex Hales managed only 4 as well, before he slashed Hastings to point and was caught by a juggling Glenn Maxwell. Taylor made it 22 for 3 when he edged behind off Hastings.
The sixth ball that Morgan faced was quick and short from Starc and Morgan turned his head and ducked, and was struck flush on the side of the helmet. He appeared in some discomfort and after several minutes of assessment by England’s medical staff on the field, he retired hurt and did not return. England were effectively 22 for 4, and as it turned out, Australia’s best bowlers of the game had not even entered the attack.
Marsh picked up three lbws through the middle overs, using his tight delivery line from close to the stumps to ensure his deliveries often pitched in line. Jonny Bairstow was given not out but found to be out on review for 10, and both Willey and Ben Stokes were lbw to balls that pitched on leg, straightened, and would have struck either leg or middle stump.
Stokes was frustrated to depart for 42; he had been the only England batsman who looked like he might push the score up to something more competitive. Stokes struck six fours and one six, down the ground off Marsh, but his departure left England at 85 for 7 and gave Marsh his fourth wicket – Moeen Ali had earlier edged behind driving loosely for 5.
Hastings returned to claim a third wicket when Wood holed out to deep extra cover, and at 106 for 8 England were asking a lot of Adil Rashid and Reece Topley, a man who in 104 previous first-class, one-day and T20 matches combined had managed only 103 runs. It was credit to Rashid and Topley that they put on 32, the second best partnership of the innings.
Rashid struck five boundaries and finished unbeaten on 35; Topley remarkably got off the mark with a five, a badly-judged single that was joined by four overthrows when Maxwell’s ping at the stumps from point missed. Topley was the last man out, lbw to Ashton Agar for 6, and Morgan did not return to the crease at the fall of the ninth wicket.
Hastings finished with 3 for 21 from his ten overs and Marsh picked up 4 for 27, outshining the much quicker Starc and Pat Cummins, while Agar was fortunate to even get a bowl at the end of the innings, and sent down two overs.
The strong bowling effort ensured that Australia got their hands on some sort of trophy on this tour – just not the one they most wanted.
(Taken from ESPN Sports Media Ltd.)