Not for the first time this year, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid spun a web around Australia’s batsmen, combining beautifully to take 5 for 79 as Australia folded for a paltry 214 on a fine batting surface at The Oval. Barring Glenn Maxwell’s enterprising 62 and a resolute 40 from Ashton Agar, no other batsman in the visitors’ ranks showed any gumption to ride through a tricky spin phase leading to Australia falling three overs short of their allotted 50-overs.
This after electing to bat on a fine London afternoon should increase the creases on coach Justin Langer’s forehead as he attempts to galvansie the team post a forgettable sandpaper episode in South Africa.
The visitors enjoyed the better of the starts in the afternoon despite losing Travis Head cheaply – nicked off chasing a wide one from David Willey. Aaron Finch, retained at his favoured opening slot, got going with a flurry of boundaries, and along with Shaun Marsh, looked set to lay a solid platform. Moeen came to bowl in the ninth over and within eight deliveries, had both the batsmen back in hut. Finch, deceived by the drift, found his attempted lofted shot go in the direction of short third-man, while Marsh played inside to a delivery that spun a touch and lost his off-stump.
From 47 for 1, the visitors quickly slipped to 90 for 5 after a dreadful sweep shot from captain Tim Paine gave Moeen a third while Rashid chipped in with the wicket of Marcus Stoinis. With Australia playing a batsman short to accommodate debutant all-rounder Michael Neser, the situation looked dire.
Maxwell chose a good moment to work himself into some semblance of form, biding his timing and cutting out risks early on. Agar, despite not contributing much in the form of runs, occupied one end and Australia’s scoreboard kept ticking along. Maxwell switched gears in Moeen’s last over, smacking the offspineer for a six and couple of boundaries before hitting Joe Root into the stands the following over. He ended a 18-month half-century drought soon after and appeared to be pushing the visitors to a position of comfort before calamity struck.
Liam Plunkett laid a trap to have Maxwell caught at long-leg and saw his plan come to fruition. Agar was soon dismissed LBW by Rashid and the rest of the batting line-up collapsed in a fashion not very unlike how the top-order had done earlier. Plunkett and Moeen finished with three wickets apiece as Australia finished with a total that is at least 100 below par on a placid Oval surface.
Brief scores: Australia 214 in 47 overs (Glenn Maxwell 62; Moeen Ali 3-43, Liam Plunkett 3-42) vs England.
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