Australia bags victory over England by 111 runs
scored a superb hundred in front of his home crowd, Glenn Maxwell put on a big show, the back-up seamer picked up a five-for, and there were stunning catches as Australia started the 2015 World Cup with a clinically competent 111-run victory against its oldest rival. Steven Finn’s last-over hat-trick and some lower middle-order resistance from James Taylor and Chris Woakes were the few positives to take home for England.A generation ago, Australia started a home ICC Cricket World Cup with back-to-back defeats, setbacks that played a part in its failure to reach the semi-finals in 1992. In the build-up to this tournament, players, including – captaining the side in Michael Clarke’s absence – had spoken of learning from the mistakes of 1992. And in front of a near-capacity crowd at the Melbourne Cricket Ground, they began Mission 2015 on just the right note on Saturday (February 14).
Two of the Mitchells in the line-up, Starc and Johnson, had been expected to be the main bowling threats, but it was the third, Marsh, who tore the heart out of the English batting, finishing with 5 for 33. As satisfying as the win was, Australia would have been even more pleased with the fact that the impetus for it came from two relatively inexperienced individuals.
As a kid in the backyard, few imaginary World Cup games come any bigger than Australia against England at the MCG. Finch was less than a year old when Australia won the ICC Cricket World Cup for the first time, in 1987. As the side started its quest for a fifth title, it was he, the local boy, that did maximum damage, with a magnificent 128-ball 135.
Finch and David Warner had given the home side a perfect start, adding 57 from 45 balls, but when England took three wickets towards the end of the Power Play, the game was back in the balance. But instead of being deflated, Finch and Bailey rebuilt solidly. By the time Finch was run out by a direct hit from Eoin Morgan at mid-off, the partnership was worth 146 from just 156 balls.
Bailey followed soon after, having received rapturous applause for his half-century, but there was still time for a late-innings pummeling from Maxwell. His 40-ball 66 ensured that England would have to become the first team to successfully chase in excess of 300 to win an ODI at the MCG.
England also suffered on account of missed chances. Finch hadn’t opened his account when he pulled the fourth ball of the innings, from James Anderson, to square leg. Woakes got both hands to it, but the ball burst through. Jos Buttler put down Maxwell behind the stumps when he had 42, and Bailey had scored just 18 when a miscued pull fell between Stuart Broad and Gary Ballance at deep midwicket.
It had been Broad, flayed around initially, who dragged England back into the contest with two superb deliveries in his fourth over. First, Warner played all around a full delivery that swung into his pads, and then Shane Watson edged a beauty that left him just a touch. When Steve Smith played on to an inswinger from Woakes, Australia was precariously placed at 70 for 3.
But with Finch carrying on in an aggressive mode, and Bailey working the ball around, the advantage was wrested back. Paddle sweeps were employed to disrupt Moeen Ali’s rhythm, and the bad balls continued to be bludgeoned away. Finch even mishit a straight six off Anderson, a skier that dropped into the front seats after following the trajectory of a nine iron.
Finch needed just 102 balls for his hundred, and he and Bailey fell within ten balls of each other. But Marsh’s 20-ball 23 and Brad Haddin’s blistering 14-ball 31 were the perfect complements to Maxwell’s drives, cuts and reverse sweeps as the final ten overs realised 105 runs. Finn ended the innings by dismissing Haddin, Maxwell and Johnson off successive deliveries, but figures of 5 for 71 gave some idea of the kind of punishment he had taken earlier.
England’s quest for a first World Cup win against Australia since 1992 was dealt serious blows within the first 20 overs. Mooen was first to go, top-edging a pull off Starc to mid-on, and Ballance flicked the fourth ball that Marsh bowled to Finch at short midwicket. Ian Bell perished to the pull, as Starc took a brilliant catch on the run, and Marsh was on a hat-trick when Joe Root top-edged another cross-batted shot behind. Haddin sprinted towards short fine leg and made no mistake.
Morgan fell when Haddin dived full sprawl to his left to take a one-handed catch after he had toe-ended an attempted pull. Buttler then clubbed one to short cover, where Smith pulled off an airborne catch that Jonty Rhodes would have been proud to call his own. At that stage, England was 92 for 6, and Marsh had figures of 5 for 16.
Taylor made an unbeaten 98, playing both orthodox and inventive strokes while looking a cut above the rest. He and Woakes added 92 to revive the innings somewhat, before a slower ball from Johnson induced a miscue to mid-off. Woakes made 37, and his departure signalled a relatively swift end. Johnson and Starc finished with two wickets apiece before the game ended.
Taylor was in sight of a maiden ODI hundred when Hazlewood appealed for a leg-before dismissal, which was upheld. Taylor immediately went for a review and replays showed the ball missing the stumps, but Taylor’s relief turned to dismay when another set of replays showed that Maxwell’s throw to the keeper’s end had caught Anderson short of his crease, and England's innings ended in 41.5 overs.
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