After a couple of disappointing results, England were back to their best at Old Trafford this evening. Eoin Morgan won the toss and decided to bat, following two defeats when chasing. Someone in the England side would have to make the most of their opportunity, converting a start into a significant score.
Jason Roy and Alex Hales opened up, as England went into the game without making any changes from the side that lost on Saturday. Hales failed again though, as he was dismissed by Pat Cummins. In truth, he never got going. He made 9 in untypical fashion, taking 31 balls to get those runs. Roy was able to capitalise on a good Old Trafford pitch though, as he smashed his way past 50. Had he been able to bat on for an extended period of time, he would have had no trouble in making a telling contribution. Unfortunately for him and England though, he lasted just 45 balls. He had got the innings off to a flyer though, making a fluent 63.
Eoin Morgan joined James Taylor at the crease, with England 86-2. Taylor had started slowly, but in control, as he sought to convert this start into a meaningful contribution. He did just that too, playing second fiddle until his skipper was out, and then taking the responsibility to increase the scoring rate. While he lacks the power of Jason Roy and Alex Hales, he is one of the best players in the world at turning dot balls into twos and threes, and the paying customer was able to witness that fully at Old Trafford today. He was dismissed at the back end of England’s innings for 101, raising his bat to the crowd as he celebrated his first ODI hundred.
England’s skipper is also in fine form. He made 62 before hitting one straight down long-off’s throat. He and Taylor complemented each other perfectly, one striking the ball to the boundary, the other ensuring his partner received plenty of the strike. After Morgan’s dismissal, England slowed down a little. The likes of Stokes, Bairstow and Ali weren’t able to bat with the fluency of Roy and Morgan, as a total of 330 looked a long way away. At 176-2, the home side would have been hopeful of a total well in excess of 300, but Australia bowled well at the death, restricting their opponents to 300-8. Although a little short of what England might have hoped for, that represented the scoreboard pressure that Australia had taken advantage of in the opening two matches.
In reply, Rory Burns fell to Steven Finn again, as he chipped to Eoin Morgan at mid-off for 9. As expected, Steve Smith was greeted by a chorus of boos following his decision to uphold Australia’s ‘obstructing the field’ dismissal in the last game. Incidentally, a large amount of ironic cheers erupted from the crowd as Adil Rashid threw the ball into Aaron Finch’s pads later on in the match. Before that though, Smith fell to Rashid as Steven Finn took an outrageous one handed catch at short mid-wicket. That provided the breakthrough the home side needed, allowing Rashid and Ali to clean up from there. Tonight’s pitch provided some assistance for the spinners, reflecting perhaps the conditions on England’s next tour. That Ali and Rashid performed more than capably as a spin partnership is incredibly encouraging.
None of Australia’s batsmen were able to contribute any scores of real worth, as Aaron Finch was the only player to reach 50. England won by a significant margin of 93 runs, and are back in the ODI series. With two games remaining, England should look to bat first and apply scoreboard pressure once again. If they set today’s display as a benchmark and can reach those heights again, they have every chance of winning the remaining two matches.
Rashid and Finn finished with 2, Ali and Plunkett with 3, while James Taylor rightly received the man of the match award for a superb hundred. A great performance from England following two authoritative ones from Australia has put them right back in contention.