Australia claim comfortable win
Australia continued their dominance over England as they comfortably chased down the tourists’ target of 243 in the opening game of the Commonwealth Bank Series at the MCG.
England had checked their hosts’ flying start when openers Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden were out in quick succession after putting on 101 for the first wicket in 15 overs.
But Ricky Ponting (82 not out) and Michael Clarke (57 not out) saw Australia home by eight wickets with more than four and a half overs to spare thanks to a 133-run partnership.
Kevin Pietersen’s innings of 82 had helped England to 242 for eight in their 50 overs despite being hit in the ribs by a Glenn McGrath bouncer on 73 - a blow which a subsequent hospital scan revealed would keep him out of the rest of the series with a fracture.
Pietersen’s well paced knock included a 95-run partnership for the third wicket with Paul Collingwood (43) as the pair rebuilt England’s innings after the loss of early wickets. Andrew Flintoff’s unbeaten 47 helped England to a respectable total.
The tourists made a disappointing start with the ball when Flintoff’s opening over went for eleven extras including a pair of five wides before Hayden and Gilchrist took charge with some powerful hitting.
Gilchrist’s explosive 60 from 61 balls, included one enormous six over mid-wicket off Flintoff, while Hayden set off to anchor the innings.
Jamie Dalrymple had Gilchrist caught behind as he tried to cut and Hayden followed shortly afterwards as ODI debutants Monty Panesar and Paul Nixon combined to have the batsman out in the same fashion for for 28.
England’s bowlers struggled to trouble Ponting and Clarke who combined to steady the ship with some classy one-day batting.
Earlier Nathan Bracken had removed both openers inside the first 10 overs of England’s innings after Michael Vaughan, playing his first one-day international game for 18 months, won the toss on a good batting pitch.
Andrew Strauss, returning to the England side in place of Ed Joyce after missing the Twenty20 International in Sydney with a sore neck, was caught at slip by Hayden for 12.
Bracken almost made it two wickets in two balls but wicket-keeper Gilchrist was unable to hold onto a sharp chance when Ian Bell edged his first delivery.
Vaughan again looked in good touch, striking two fours from one Glenn McGrath over, but he fell two balls before the end of the first power play for 26 as Hayden took his second catch.
Australia captain Ricky Ponting enforced all three power plays consecutively and had Bell out during the third set of restrictions for 15 driving a Mitchell Johnson delivery straight to Michael Hussey at mid-off.
Pietersen and Collingwood rebuilt England’s innings but both were lucky to survive a series of chances as Australia’s fielders were unusually off-colour.
Pietersen brought up his fifty with the first six of England’s innings when he smashed Cameron White over long off and then added consecutive maximums over long on in the leg spinner’s next over.
Australia broke the impressive partnership when Ponting brought back McGrath who had Collingwood caught in the deep.
Flintoff combined well with Pietersen for a time but the Hampshire batsman fell at a crucial point as he went for another big shot off Stuart Clark only to pick out Andrew Symonds at long on.
Veteran wicket-keeper Nixon was out shortly afterwards lbw to Johnson without scoring and Dalrymple was unfortunate to be given out for two, caught behind by Gilchrist, as he tried to hook McGrath.
Jon Lewis fell for nine in the final over of the innings caught by a diving Ponting at point as McGrath picked up his second wicket to leave Panesar nought not out without facing a ball.
Australia played without fast bowler Brett Lee due to a bout of bronchitis.