The problem with chasing a record ODI total of 481/6 – as Australia discovered on this forgettable day in Nottingham – was that it is nearly impossible. Unless you possessed a batting line-up as deep and devastating as the current No. 1 ODI side. Australia didn’t, and it showed as their chase never appeared to be on track even when Travis Head led the fight, and soon petered out to leave them with yet another series defeat.
Unlike England, Australia’s start wasn’t as fiery and fluent as they’d have liked. And that came as the first big hurdle. D’Arcy Short’s indecisiveness with shot-making led to his demise in the fourth over, and Shaun Marsh – the centurion from the previous encounter – walked out with the task of teeing of straightaway. Marsh couldn’t quite do that, but Head attempted to wriggle Australia out of the mess with a 36-ball half-century. But, after dealing with David Willey and Mark Wood at the start, his innings ended with a tame push back to Moeen Ali off his own bowling, leaving the door ajar for Australia to run riot.
The short boundaries and the benign surface that worked in England’s favour for close to four hours prior to Australia’s riposte seemed non-existent. In an attempt to get the scorecard going, Marsh danced down the track to Moeen in his next over, but couldn’t clear Liam Plunkett at long on. Aaron Finch and Marcus Stoinis’s attempt to pull Australia back into the game had a slow start, as they dragged the team to 143 for 3 in 20 overs, still needing over 300 runs to get at more than 10-an-over.
The big gulf between the two batting sides was out in the open in the passage of play between the 20th and 30th over. England had just 16 more than what Australia did at that stage, but had the advantage of having lost just one wicket, and the presence of a batsman gunning for his fourth hundred in six games. Australia limped to 200 for 7 in 30 overs, with only two overs producing runs in double-digits. In contrast, England had just three overs of single-digit scores, taking them to 253 for 1 at the corresponding period.
It was the phase where the Bairstow-Hales partnership worth 151 runs blossomed, and paved the way for the frenzied finish. It came as yet another lesson for Australia to take from England’s excellent approach to ODIs. Right at the 20th over, Australia managed a breakthrough against the run of play – removing Jason Roy. But, there was still no reason or room for England to revert to a shell. Bairstow was already batting with a strike rate of over 100, and Hales entered with the reputation of having had his best outing at Trent Bridge last time around (171 against Pakistan in 2016).
Finch and Stoinis weren’t in an as comfortable position as Bairstow and Hales, but still needed to create similar impact. Finch tried, and failed almost immediately, giving Adil Rashid the first of his four wickets. Australia further shot themselves foot with indecisive running, that consumed Marcus Stoinis. Tim Paine arrived having to replicate the high standards of batting displayed by his opposite number, but couldn’t even get close. On the day when Eoin Morgan smashed the fastest fifty by an England batsman and became the country’s highest run-getter in ODIs before heading back for a 30-ball 67, his opposite number deposited an absolute half-tracker from Rashid into the hands of Hales at deep square leg.
Glenn Maxwell too fell trying to hit big – understandably – leaving Australia on 194 for 7 in 27.3 overs. At this stage, England still had nine wickets intact, and hadn’t even scored half the total they would eventually get. Australia lasted for just under 10 more overs before Rashid wiped off the tail, while England lost just one more wicket from the 30th over mark, and went on to add another 147 runs off the last 78 balls.
Brief Scores: England 481/6 in 50 overs (Alex Hales 147, Jonny Bairstow 139, Jason Roy 82, Eoin Morgan 67; Jhye Richardson 3-92) lost Australia 239 in 37 overs (Travis Head 51, Marcus Stoinis 44; Adil Rashid 4-47, Moeen Ali 3-28) by 242 runs
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