England beaten at last
England’s record-breaking run of Twenty20 victories came to an end as Australia drew the two-match series with a four-run win at the MCG.
Paul Collingwood’s side had won eight consecutive matches in the game’s shortest format prior to this match, but they were unable to extend that streak despite another disciplined bowling performance, which limited Australia to 147 for seven.
Michael Yardy and Graeme Swann returned identical figures of 2-19 from four overs as the tourists applied the brakes in the middle overs and Australia were grateful for Aaron Finch’s belligerent maiden half-century as they scraped their way to a competitive total.
England appeared well set to chase down their target as Ian Bell and Steven Davies shared an opening stand of 60 inside eight overs, but the rest of the batting order failed to fire and 18 runs were required from the final over.
Chris Woakes threatened to emulate his Adelaide heroics as he clubbed Brett Lee over long-on for an enormous six to leave England needing seven from two balls, but he and Tim Bresnan were unable to find another boundary.
Mitchell Johnson finished with somewhat flattering figures of 3-29 for Australia, while Shane Watson once again impressed with 2-17 from four overs.
England’s reply got off to an excellent start as Bell took Shaun Tait’s opening over for 11 with the aid of two glorious shots through the off side.
Davies took longer to find his feet, but picked up his first boundary in the fifth over with a pull over short fine-leg off Watson.
England had progressed to 50 without loss at the end of the six powerplay overs, with Bell looking in supreme touch.
Yet they were to suffer difficulties thereafter as wickets fell at regular intervals.
Bell took his score to 39 before playing on to the erratic Johnson and Kevin Pietersen followed three balls later as he thumped a wide half-volley straight to Cameron White at cover.
Watson then had Collingwood caught at mid-off by a leaping David Warner as England reached the midway stage on 74 for three, halfway to their target.
The required run-rate continued to rise as the innings progressed and Davies, who had seen little of the strike en route to 29, fell in similar fashion to Collingwood as he chipped Watson to mid-on, where Warner dived forward to take a low catch.
Eoin Morgan and Luke Wright consolidated for England, but 45 runs were required from the final four overs.
Wright collected eight from the first three balls of the 17th, bowled by Tait, but was then dismissed as a thunderous drive failed to clear Steven Smith at mid-off.
When Morgan holed out at deep midwicket off Johnson in the next over, England’s hopes of victory appeared slim and, although Woakes took them close, they were unable to recover.
Watson and Warner had earlier set the platform for a substantial Australia score in a rapid opening partnership of 37.
The former departed to the first ball of the fifth over, caught at deep midwicket by Morgan off Woakes, but Tim Paine quickly settled in alongside Warner as the hosts reached 57 for one at the end of the powerplay.
Paine’s breathtaking cameo was brought to an end when an attempted slog-sweep off Swann provided Collingwood with a simple catch at short midwicket, although England’s skipper almost spurned the opportunity as he initially spilled the ball before holding on at the second attempt.
A collapse duly followed and Warner was the next to depart for 30 as he lost his balance attempting to drive Yardy down the ground and succeeded only in finding Pietersen at long-on.
White was trapped lbw by Swann for a duck, although the ball may have been going over the top, and David Hussey followed for eight as he slapped Yardy to Woakes at deep midwicket, leaving Australia reeling on 80 for five.
The inexperienced duo of Finch and Smith were tasked with rebuilding the innings and the former smashed Pietersen down the ground for six before picking up four more with a powerful cut off the part-time off-spinner.
Ajmal Shahzad ended the sixth-wicket stand as a second successive slower ball deceived Smith, who picked out Collingwood at extra-cover.
Stephen O’Keefe also departed, bowled by Bresnan as he attempted an ill-judged scoop, but local lad Finch continued to defy England’s attack and finished unbeaten on 53 from 33 balls, the bulk of his runs coming from a series of agricultural swipes through the leg side.