White runs hot for Australia
Cameron White enhanced his claims for the number three spot in the Australia order with a match-winning century at the Rose Bowl.
Occupying Ricky Ponting’s berth in the captain’s absence, White followed up innings of 53 and 42 in the opening two games with a splendid 105 to propel Australia to a comprehensive six-wicket victory in the third match of the NatWest Series.
Chasing a modest 229 to win, the tourists cruised home with nine balls to spare, opening up a formidable 3-0 lead with four matches to play.
Ponting, back in England following a brief trip home, will return for the remainder of the series, and it is unfeasible that he will not bat at three.
But White proved he is a batsman of some substance in registering a maiden one-day international hundred, batting with a maturity and composure which goes against his natural attacking instincts.
Though he survived a run-out chance on 46 and was dropped by Tim Bresnan on 92, that there was no doubt over the outcome of this contest when he finally fell - just nine runs were required - said much for his growing stature in the international game.
White was hardly pedestrian - his innings occupied 125 balls and contained nine fours and a six, and he dominated a third-wicket stand of 143 with Michael Clarke which was central to a superbly-paced run-chase.
Clarke, for his part, fulfilled his pre-series promise to hand the reins back to Ponting with a 3-0 cushion, and went some way to rediscovering his form with a painstaking 52 off 92 deliveries.
Though England’s discipline with the ball waned after an immaculate start, and their fielding let them down under the floodlights, the foundations for their defeat were laid during a another disappointing batting display.
Having failed to chase down eminently achievable targets in the opening two matches, they chose to bat first. Yet, despite Andrew Strauss’ fluent 63 off 72 balls, they were restricted to a modest 228 for nine on a slow but reliable pitch.
Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson returned figures of 3-36 and 2-39 respectively, while Nathan Bracken’s 10 overs cost just 36 runs.
Strauss was responsible for two thirds of the runs scored when he departed to leave England 98 for four, and they were thankful for Eoin Morgan’s responsible 43 and a late rally from Bresnan to avoid posting their lowest total of the series.
The momentum was firmly with the hosts while Strauss and Ravi Bopara enjoyed a largely untroubled opening partnership of 41 inside eight overs, but Bopara and Matt Prior succumbed in the space of six balls to alter the complexion of this contest.
Bopara had made just 10, which contained an unexpected six over long-on at Bracken’s expense, when he skied a drive back over the head of the same bowler, and James Hopes took a splendid catch running towards the boundary.
Hopes’ safe hands also accounted for Prior, who pulled the fourth ball he faced, from Johnson, to square-leg, while Owais Shah, preoccupied with the leg side during his brief innings, was trapped in front attempting to work the left-armer through midwicket.
Strauss, by contrast, experienced few alarms during his innings, taking 14 off Brett Lee’s second over and continuing to drive and cut with great authority en route to a 63-ball fifty containing six fours.
He too played a significant part in his own downfall, and his disappointment was palpable after he advanced down the track to clip Nathan Hauritz low to Clarke at short midwicket.
Paul Collingwood never looked fluent despite making 28 - he miscued a drive off Watson to a tumbling Bracken at mid-on - Luke Wright slapped Hopes to short extra-cover, and England were thankful for Morgan’s clever manipulation and controlled aggression.
Having reverse-swept Hauritz for four early in his innings, he clubbed Hopes for six over long-on before chipping a Lee full toss to mid-off when England finally took the batting powerplay after 41 overs.
Watson’s immaculate line did for Graeme Swann, but Bresnan combined judicious defence with the odd powerful stroke through the off side in his unbeaten.
He and Ryan Sidebottom shared a ninth-wicket stand of 40 which stretched until the final ball of the innings, when the latter failed to clear long-off.
England bowled superbly with the new ball - Sidebottom’s first four overs cost just four runs and there were only two boundaries in the opening 10 overs - and James Anderson was rewarded with the wicket of Watson, lbw pushing forward.
Tim Paine made 29 off 35 balls without looking comfortable - he was pinned in front playing across the line to Collingwood - but White and Clarke were composure personified during a wonderfully measured partnership.
Neither was required to take any undue risks, although White reminded England of his ball-striking ability with the odd lofted drive down the ground.
He would have been run out had Anderson hit the stumps with a left-handed throw as he scampered in from short midwicket, and lated saw Bresnan drop a sitter at long-on.
Clarke continued to accumulate in far from convincing fashion, but the volume of runs were far from important than the manner in which they were scored.
White dispatched Sidebottom into the stand at long-on to mark the start of the batting powerplay, and, though Clarke was bowled charging Swann, and White drove Wright to mid-off, England's fate had long since been sealed.