Collingwood fights losing battle
Paul Collingwood’s valiant 95 proved in vain as England’s NatWest Series campaign ended on a losing note at Lord’s.
Australia followed up their victory at the Brit Oval with a 42-run triumph today, bowling England out for 235 in pursuit of 278 to win.
Shaun Marsh and Mike Hussey were the catalysts for Australia’s success, spearheading a savage late assault which carried them to a total that looked beyond them for much of their innings.
Marsh, playing only because of Michael Clarke’s sore back, overcame a steady start to hit 59 off 50 balls, sparking a thrilling change in momentum that saw a hitherto becalmed Hussey smash 79 off 60. Stuart Broad’s four wickets came at a cost of 64, while James Anderson’s 10 fruitless overs yielded 75 runs.
Shaun Tait was the central figure in an incisive Australia bowling display, undermining England’s pursuit by castling Andrew Strauss and Michael Yardy in quick succession before returning to the attack to remove Collingwood.
Collingwood, with assistance from Tim Bresnan, had renewed England’s hopes after they slipped to 73 for five in reply, but they perished in the space of three balls to ensure Graeme Swann’s cameo 33 was largely irrelevant.
Tait, bowling comfortably in excess of 90mph throughout, finished with 4-48, underlining the impact he has made to the side since being called up for the third game. Australia could be forgiven for lamenting not doing so sooner.
Their victory at least served to restore pride somewhat after they surrendered the series within three matches, and it is worth noting that there was precious little evidence of any lack of intent from either side in what was a dead rubber.
England will surely rue a costly final 11 overs, when they leaked 130 runs, and now face uncertainty over Kevin Pietersen’s fitness after an apparent knee injury kept him off the field for much of the day and saw him bat with a runner.
Marsh and Hussey’s innings mirrored Australia’s, with steady accumulation replaced by brutal hitting as England ceded the advantage they had built up with the ball.
A total of 250 had appeared the limit of Australia’s ambitions after a stodgy start which saw Tim Paine make 54 off 90 balls.
Although neither Bresnan nor Anderson gained any tangible reward for fine new-ball spells, the pressure they helped create enabled Broad to take a wicket with his fifth delivery.
He had Watson, pulling, caught by Anderson at mid-on, and not long after found sufficient bounce to locate Ricky Ponting’s glove as he attempted to hook.
Paine, having negotiated considerable swing early on, grew in confidence to reverse-sweep Yardy for four, but was bowled attempting the same stroke off Swann after the off-spinner had Cameron White taken at long-off in his first over.
The fact that Australia failed to score a boundary in more than 12 overs was testament to England’s discipline with the ball, but it deserted them in the face of Marsh and Hussey’s assault, which was prompted by taking the batting powerplay in the 40th over.
If a gloved four over Kieswetter off Broad was streaky, there was little fortuitous about the manner in which he pulled the next ball into the stand at deep midwicket, before drilling the same bowler back of his head.
By the time Marsh was well taken by Eoin Morgan, running to his right from long-off, he had raced to a 45-ball fifty, the last 35 runs of which had come off only 14 deliveries.
Hussey, whose first four came off the 38th delivery he faced, picked up where Marsh left off, hitting an increasingly wayward Anderson and Bresnan for leg-side sixes as he and Steven Smith put on 50 in only 26 balls.
Both perished in the final over – caught by Anderson at long-on and long-off respectively in almost identical fashion – but James Hopes joined in the fun with 12 off three deliveries.
England, as they had at the Brit Oval on Wednesday, stuttered early in their chase.
Strauss, beaten for pace, had his off stump knocked out before Yardy – promoted to number three with Pietersen’s arrival delayed due to the time he spent off the field - inexplicably shouldered arms to an inswinger that also cannoned into off stump via pad.
When Ryan Harris had Craig Kieswetter held at short extra-cover off a leading edge, England’s prospects dwindled further, and the departures of Morgan and Pietersen in successive overs deepened the sense of gloom.
Morgan was crestfallen after a pull off James Hopes was superbly held by Marsh, who managed to clutch the ball to his chest as he dived full length to his right.
He pulled off a similarly fine catch in the same position to account for Luke Wright, whose 56-run alliance with Collingwood failed to stem an escalating run-rate, Pietersen having played on attempting to force Smith off the back foot.
Bresnan’s 34 off 30 deliveries kept England’s faint hopes alive. Mixing lusty strokeplay with the occasional slice of luck, he and Collingwood, who revelled in the challenge posed by a fired-up Tait, put on 65 in 10 overs.
Tait’s return to the attack spelled the end for England. Bresnan was superbly run out by Ponting’s direct hit from cover as he chased a quick single, and two balls later Collingwood was cleaned up attempting to whip the ball to leg. He had faced 121 balls and hit seven fours and two sixes.
However entertaining Swann’s innings was, England’s fate was sealed.
Doug Bollinger’s astounding one-handed catch in his follow-through did for Stuart Broad before Tait, fittingly, had Swann taken by a back-pedalling Harris at mid-off with 3.3 overs remaining.