England fall way short
England slipped to a new low in the NatWest Series with a 111-run defeat, as their batsmen floundered in a forlorn chase under lights at Trent Bridge.
Set a distant 297 to avert chances of a series whitewash after Tim Paine’s superb maiden one-day international century, England were dismissed for 185, with nine overs to spare.
Almost all the same weaknesses apparent in England’s six previous defeats resurfaced in the second of two day/night matches in Nottingham. Not a single batsman passed 31, three players were out trying to pierce the infield, and running between the wickets was again uncertain.
Australia’s confidence is sky high as they go on to Chester-le-Street on Sunday back on top of the International Cricket Council one-day rankings. A whitewash would not only be an unprecedented feat in a seven-match series, but it would ensure Ricky Ponting's side remain number one going into the ICC Champions Trophy.
Conspiracy theorists were encouraged when Andrew Strauss lost a toss for the first time since the third npower Test at Edgbaston. Ponting chose to bat on a surface fractionally slower than the track that yielded over 600 runs on Tuesday.
Both sides made two changes as they look to rest players ahead of South Africa.
Graeme Swann and James Anderson, neither of whom have played since the third match at the Rose Bowl, were recalled in place of Adil Rashid and the injured Stuart Broad.
The return of Anderson, who took 4-55, was a joy to see. He took both early wickets, returned to briefly knock the stuffing out of the middle-order and fielded superbly all innings, most notably when he ran out Brett Lee with a direct hit.
Australia again rested a fast bowler, Mitchell Johnson, which allowed Lee back in. James Hopes returned for vice-captain Michael Clarke.
Tim Paine’s answer to the batting shake-up was to play the ideal knock. A 24-year-old wicketkeeper-batsman from Tasmania, he has impressed everyone with his tidy glovework in the limited-overs leg of Australia’s tour, and served an exposition of his class in front of the stumps with 111, his maiden one-day international century.
Paine’s square-cutting and driving was impeccable, and for such a natural keeper, it was astonishing how orthodox he is with the bat. He repaired the innings from 40 for two with a record third-wicket stand against England of 163, with a rejuvenated Mike Hussey.
Anderson forced Shane Watson to drag on to his stumps to the third ball of the fifth over, ending an opening stand of 19.
Then Ponting, a centurion on Tuesday, lofted Anderson directly to Ryan Sidebottom on the square-leg boundary to depart for six.
Paine picked off anything vaguely wide, cutting to the point boundary repeatedly as England strayed too short and lofting Dimitri Mascarenhas’ off-cutter over extra-cover for six.
Paine survived a nervous spell on 98, almost nicking Sidebottom behind, to move to a superb century from 130 balls.
Hussey grew in confidence and was happy to play second fiddle to his young partner. He established the hundred stand with a carved four, and then flicked Sidebottom over midwicket for six.
The left-hander sped up to 65 from 69 balls when, from the second ball of the 40th over, he tried another haul to leg and lifted Swann to Joe Denly in the deep.
Australia then briefly lost their way. Only three more runs had been added when Paine, after an innings of precise judgement, played a mindless swipe across the line and bottom-edged to Matt Prior, who took an excellent catch standing up.
Callum Ferguson followed, cleaned up by the first ball of the final powerplay, which was Anderson’s first back in the attack.
But aspirations England held of limiting their opponents further were quashed by Cameron White and James Hopes in a partnership of 53. White struck five fours and a six over mid-on in a 23-ball 35 as Australia finished 296 for eight.
England’s reply suffered a setback from outside their control, when Strauss was given out caught behind off Lee to the second ball of the innings. Lee’s searing short ball ripped past his glove, and the England captain was understandably aghast at umpire Asad Rauf’s decision.
Having recovered from the loss with a stand of 45, England then committed hara-kiri by losing three wickets for 18 runs.
Joe Denly had played a glorious stroke off Hopes in the ninth over, taking a step down the track, but, having made 25, could only lob it high when he tried to repeat the trick the following over.
Then Ponting treated Trent Bridge to a stupendous piece of fielding. Ravi Bopara pushed the ball to his left, and Prior had barely left his crease when Ponting picked up, swivelled and threw down the stumps at the non-striker’s end.
Ponting’s next run-out was gifted to him, when Owais Shah belatedly called Bopara through and Ponting hit the target again.
Eoin Morgan had unleashed another trademark ‘change-up’ in an energetic 23, before lobbing to deep cover, and Shah followed for the same score when he drove straight to Watson at extra cover.
The loss of England’s biggest hitter, Mascarenhas, after a solitary six, virtually ended all prospects of an England win.
Some late entertainment came from Tim Bresnan, who finished unbeaten on 31, but it could not mask chronic weaknesses as England head into a major tournament.