England stroll to series success
An inspired Steven Finn proved too hot to handle on a lively surface at the Emirates Durham ICG as England moved into an unassailable 3-0 lead in the NatWest Series with an eight-wicket victory.
The hosts’ pacemen have provided a stern examination of Australia in the one-day internationals thus far, and that once again proved the case after Alastair Cook opted to bowl.
Finn led the way with 4-37, while Tim Bresnan, James Anderson and Ravi Bopara were also in the wickets.
The upshot was Australia, already 2-0 down in the rubber with just one encounter remaining after this, being restricted to 200 for nine.
That score, despite the surface offering assistance to the seamers throughout, proved nowhere near enough as Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott struck half-centuries to help England to a seventh successive series win on home soil.
Finn looked inspired from the off and the only thing missing from his display was a hat-trick - though he came mightily close.
The paceman trapped David Warner and Peter Forrest in front from successive deliveries before claiming back-to-back scalps for the second time to get rid of Michael Clarke and Matthew Wade.
A five-wicket haul would have been deserved, but he was denied career-best figures by the excellent David Hussey.
Indeed, Hussey was key in dragging Australia to their eventual total with an assured 72-ball 70 that featured meaty strokes but an equal measure of luck.
There was no such fortune about Bell’s performance; the opener’s effort was merely a continuation of the fine form that has seen him register scores of 126, 53, 41, 75 and 69 today since returning to the ODI side.
Playing with a fluency that belied the struggle of Australia’s batsman, Bell drove, cut and timed his way to 69.
He, like partner opening Cook, fell to Australia’s best bowler on the day Clint McKay, who claimed 2-29.
While Bell’s effort contained an array of fine drives and cuts, Trott’s was an accumulation that summed up his one-day international career.
Today’s knock saw the number three become the fourth fastest batsmen to 2,000 runs in the format; it took 47 innings, two more than Kevin Pietersen and Zaheer Abbas and seven more than Hashim Amla.
Working with typical assurance through leg, he finished on 64 alongside Bopara, who compiled an unbeaten 33 to see England to an ninth ODI success in a row.
6:12pm - ENGLAND WIN BY EIGHT WICKETS! - Bopara profits from some filth being sent down by Hussey, pulling a short delivery through midwicket before dispatching a full toss to the same area. Trott then survives a stumping appeal off Clarke, after which his partner completes victory with 13 balls to spare via a three through point. A thoroughly dominant display from England, who have officially won the NatWest Series.
6:04pm - It's easy pickings for Trott and Bopara now as they help themselves against the part-time spin being sent down by Clarke and Hussey.
5:50pm - FIFTY! Trott (87b 4x4 0x6) - A quick single takes Trott to a 17th ODI half-century before Bopara inside edges past the stumps for a first boundary. It's just a matter of counting the runs down now.
5:43pm - Fine shot from Trott, who finds his fourth boundary courtesy of an authoritative pull through square-leg. A couple of singles leave him two away from a half-century, with England now requiring just 46 to win.
5:30pm - England have been forced to take the batting powerplay now - not that it should make any difference. Trott certainly is not playing any differently, producing a series of deflections and running well.
5:14pm - WICKET! Bell b McKay 69; ENG 135/2 - Australia have turned to part-time leg-spinner David Warner - though he appears to be bowling little seamers. Bell helps himself by clipping a full toss to the midwicket fence, but is forced to depart in the next over as McKay gets one to nip back and castles the opener via an inside edge.
5:04pm - Trott helps himself to another four in identical fashion to the first before delivering another, albeit with the help of some comedy fielding from substitute Xavier Doherty. A cut over point spins and leaves the spinner red-faced, much to the delight of the crowd.
4:53pm - Trott finds the boundary for the first time by capitalising on Pattinson bowling too full and clipping through midwicket. The crowd are starting to get a little rowdier despite the sun disappearing. Then again, England are cruising and I imagine there has been a fair few beers sunk by now.
4:39pm - FIFTY! Bell (71b 7x4 0x6) - And that's a half-century for Bell. A quite outstanding knock from the in-form opener, who has followed up scores of 126, 53, 41 and 75 since returning to the ODI side.
4:37pm - There is little happening at the Emirates Durham ICG now, other than England accumulating runs with ease. Their chief accumulator, Trott, reaches the 2,000-run mark in just his 47th innings with a single off Clarke; he is the fourth fastest player to achieve the feat, following Kevin Pietersen, Zaheer Abbas and Hashim Amla. Fellow spinner David Hussey is on at the other end.
4:28pm - Trott gets off the mark with an unconvincing edge through slips off McKay. He begins to look comfortable thereafter, however, as the singles flow freely. Excellent stuff.
4:17pm - WICKET! Cook b McKay c sub (S Smith) 29; ENG 70/1 - Hilfenhaus finishes Lee’s over but there is little to alarm either batsman. McKay comes back into the attack at the other end, only to be greeted by a cut through cover from Cook. However, he gets the breakthrough two balls later as England’s skipper drives straight to substitute Steven Smith at short cover.
4:08pm - This is getting all too easy for England, with Bell further illustrating his fine touch by cutting beautifully through point for four. Oh, and there are further problems for Australia as Lee is forced to stop bowling in the middle of an over due to a calf injury. It seemed like Watson was struggling earlier too and we have not seen him since. Real problems for the tourists.
3:57pm - REVIEW! - Pattinson raps Cook on the pad to prompt a loud appeal from the Aussies, after which Michael Clarke calls for the review. That upholds Marais Erasmus' not-out verdict, with the ball pitching outside leg stump. Bell and Cook then help themselves to a boundary apiece off Hilfenhaus; this is looking incredibly comfortable now.
3:47pm – DROPPED CATCH! McKay will be more than a little disappointed with that. Cook is slightly too early on a straight drive and hits it back to the seamer, who shells the chance. Caught-and-bowled opportunities are never easy, but ones like that have to be taken if Australia are to challenge here. Shane Watson comes on at the other end and is met by a flowing cover drive from Cook.
3:40pm - Pattinson has looked better in his second over, beating Bell's outside edge before forcing a loose stroke from the opener, who is relieved to see the ball fly over David Hussey at slip and to the boundary. England are off to a fine start here, reaching 42 without loss in the mandatory powerplay.
3:32pm - Australia turn to their exciting young paceman James Pattinson, who has surprisingly seen no action in the series thus far. He starts, however, with a terrible leg-stump half-volley that Bell clips to the boundary. Oh, and it is a front-foot no-ball too. Bell goes down the pitch but fails to connect off the free-hit. Yet the right-hander ends the over in style, clipping beautifully through midwicket.
3:24pm - Lovely shot from Bell, maybe the best we have seen today. The right-hander shows typical elegance in driving to the cover fence off Clint McKay, who has replaced Lee. England are going at a good rate here, reaching 26 without loss after five overs.
3:16pm - Amid the ball moving around, Cook profits from Lee bowling too wide by thrice crunching through the off side, the first two of which find the boundary. Bell gets off the mark later in the over as both he and the skipper look positive.
3:07pm - A probing first over from Lee, who beats Cook with his third delivery. These are really testing conditions for the batsmen, illustrated by Bell also playing and missing to Ben Hilfenhaus.
2:58pm - Alastair Cook and Ian Bell have joined Australia's fielders in the middle and we're almost ready to go. Brett Lee has the ball in his hand and will deliver the first over.
2:30pm - END OF INNINGS - AUS 200/9 - Three twos off Bresnan complete an excellent final over for Australia, which brought 14 runs. They have made 200, which will be a massive confidence booster for the tourists - though England remain favourites.
2:28pm - WICKET! Hussey b Bresnan c Anderson 70; AUS 194/9 - Hussey crashes Bresnan through leg off the first two balls of the final over as Australia edge towards 200, only to then be caught by Anderson at the long-off boundary.
2:16pm - WICKET! McKay b Anderson c Bresnan 6; AUS 178/8 - England have dropped a couple of catches today but taken some fine ones too. McKay, who had pulled for four earlier in the over, skies a slog high in the air and Bresnan holds on at mid-off.
2:08pm - WICKET! Lee b Anderson c Broad 27; AUS 166/7 - Lee shows his intent by crashing Anderson over square-leg for the second six of the innings. However, the bowler has his revenge as Lee, attempting to find another maximum, hits the next delivery to long-on to give Anderson a 500th international wicket.
2:03pm - FIFTY! Hussey (62b 6x4 0x6) - Patel's third over proves costly as he sweeps through fine-leg for four before crashing one over midwicket for another. Australia are 160 for six after 45 overs; can they get to 200?
2pm - Lee and Hussey have quietly moved on to a fifty partnership, which, in the circumstances, is an outstanding effort. The latter has rode his luck, epitomised by an edge that narrowly evaded Kieswetter off Anderson.
1:55pm - DROPPED CATCH! Spin has been introduced for the first time and Samit Patel immediately finds some turn with his second delivery. In the next set of six, Bopara forces a false shot from Hussey, but Bell cannot hold on to a difficult chance sliding forward. England may be just starting to get a little frustrated.
1:45pm - Hussey breaks the shackles somewhat by cutting Bresnan for four, but Australia are merely hanging on in the hope of accelerating later in the innings. They need to just try and bat through now and hope to edge towards 200.
1:32pm - The game has entered a slight lull for the first time here as Australia look to accumulate some runs in the batting powerplay. Lee was initially positive, but, having failed to connect with a couple of meaty attempts, has gone into his shell slightly.
1:18pm - DROPPED CATCH! Brett Lee leaves alone the hat-trick ball, but Finn is still scenting a first ODI five-wicket haul. Attention for now, however, turns to Bopara, who drops a difficult caught-and-bowled chance off Hussey. It's harsh to call it a drop, to be fair.
1:11pm - Wade b Finn c Kieswetter 0; AUS 96/6 - Finn is on a hat-trick for the second time in this match! What a performance this is, though he will be buying Kieswetter a pint tonight. Finn finds movement back into Matthew Wade, who inside edges behind, where the wicketkeeper takes an astonishing diving catch at the second attempt. Jubilant scenes at Durham!
1:09pm - Clarke b Finn 43; AUS 96/5 - England finally get the breakthrough they crave and Finn is once again the man to strike. After the skipper inside edges an in-dipper through fine-leg for four, the paceman pitches fuller and uproots off stump.
1:04pm - The ball continues to move prodigiously at the Emirates Durham ICG as Finn beats Clarke all ends up once more. The end of the 32nd over heralds drinks, with Australia 92 for four.
12:52pm - Bopara must feel like Glenn McGrath at the moment. Clarke, in particular, struggles as the medium pacer beats his outside edge twice and raps him on the pads. Excellent stuff, though Clarke somehow remains.
12:40pm - DROPPED CATCH! - It seems to be Clarke's day. Broad finds a little away movement to locate the edge, but Anderson shells an extremely difficult chance at slip. The ball was always dropping on the Lancastrian, who, in reality, did well to get a finger to it.
12:31pm - REVIEW! - England can feel mightily unfortunate here. Bopara almost had two in an over as his yorker struck David Hussey's boot, only for England to unsuccessfully review after Nigel Llong shook his head; replays showed the ball was narrowly not hitting enough of leg stump to overturn the decision. In the next over, Broad then hits Clarke plumb in front, yet England cannot review after Marais Erasmus turns down their appeal.
12:24pm - WICKET! Bailey b Bopara 9; AUS 68/4 - I think everyone in the press box is as bemused as George Bailey. Australia's T20 skipper has been castled by a fantastic delivery from Bopara that seamed away and clipped the off bail. England tightening the screw now.
12:10pm - WICKET! Watson b Bresnan 28; AUS 57/3 - What a waste that is. Watson has worked so hard, only to now gift Bresnan a wicket by trying to play a late cut to a delivery that was far too straight. England fans are not complaining, though.
12:08pm - Australia are starting to build up a head of steam now, with both batsman looking settled. Clarke produces his best shot of the day by driving Bresnan, back in the attack after Ravi Bopara was given a solitary over, down the ground. An excellent response from the Yorkshireman, however, as he twice beats the touring skipper.
11:48am - England are still beating the edge quite regularly yet Watson, in particular, is looking increasingly comfortable. He illustrates just that by blasting Stuart Broad down the ground for four over the top. The seamer then commits the cardinal sin that is a front-foot no-ball, which allows Watson to crash a maximum over long-on off the free-hit.
11:35am - DROPPED CATCH! - Eoin Morgan has shelled the simplest of chances off Clarke. Tim Bresnan forces a loose stroke at the end of a fine over and Morgan, at backward point, does not even get a hand to it. A real let-off for Australia's captain.
11:31am - It's like a Test match at the moment as Watson and Clarke desperately try to stick around. Australia are 15 for two after 10 overs and, despite the compulsory powerplay finishing, England continue to attack.
11:25am - Finn's first bad delivery is punished by Clarke, who cover drives a full toss to the boundary. The batsman is beaten all ends up by a beauty off the next, after which Anderson keeps up the pressure with a maiden.
11:12am - Finn completes a double-wicket maiden by keeping Clarke on his toes. Anderson then follows up his partner's fine work with another tight over; we are yet to see a boundary today.
11:10am - Play that Michael Clarke! The best delivery of the three from Finn, who just misses out on a hat-trick. Clarke is faced with a nip-backer first up but there is just enough extra bounce to ensure the ball misses the stumps.
11:09am - WICKET! Forrest lbw Finn 0; AUS 6/2 - Finn has another and is on a hat-trick! This is absolutely stone dead again. The paceman nips one back at Peter Forrest, who correctly opts against a review. A good start has become a great one for England.
11:07am - REVIEW! WICKET! Warner lbw Finn 2; AUS 6/1 - Well, the decision review system works for England and that's a deserved reward. Warner plays all-round a full delivery and is rapped on the pad in front of middle. The umpire originally delivered a not-out verdict, which was rightly overturned.
11:04am - Australia's openers are not enjoying themselves out there in the face of some excellent bowling. Watson and David Warner are enjoying some good fortune amid loose strokes, but survival remains the only thing that matter right now. Craig Kieswetter earlier gave the crowd something to cheer with an athletic take that was the envy of the press-box inhabitants, like myself, who have tucked into too many bacon and sausage sandwiches this morning. Australia are six without loss after five overs.
10:56am - Steven Finn has sent down an over, it seems, without clipping the stumps at the non-striker's end. Australia finally get their first run on the board at the start of Anderson's second set of six before the Lancastrian sends down another five dot balls. Good stuff from England's new-ball pair.
10:50am - An excellent start from James Anderson, who beats Shane Watson with his second delivery before forcing the batsman into a tentative defensive stroke that almost finds its way to gully. Just enough movement at the moment and England will be scenting some early breakthroughs.
10:45am - The sound of Jerusalem is reverberating around the ground and the players are out in the middle. We are ready for action, folks.
10:33am - It seems Mitch has not been selected due to soreness in his right foot. He is currently bowling quite rapidly on one of the squares, though. Interesting.
10:20am - England have made two enforced changes from their triumph at the Kia Oval. James Anderson returns after being sidelined with a niggle last time out and replaces Jade Dernbach, who will miss the rest of the rubber due to a side strain. Meanwhile, Samit Patel comes in for Graeme Swann after the off-spinner was omitted for the final two ODIs due to a slight elbow problem. Australia have left out Mitchell Johnson and Xavier Doherty, paving the way for Ben Hilfenhaus and James Pattinson to come in.
10:15am - ENGLAND WIN TOSS AND BOWL - Michael Clarke has called incorrectly at the toss and England will bowl. A pretty straightforward decision for Alastair Cook; it's humid, overcast and seemingly perfect for the hosts' pace quartet.
10:05am - There were real fears today would follow the same path as Edgbaston after heavy rain yesterday. However, my fellow north-easterners at the ground have been working feverishly through the night and the players are warming up on the outfield. There should be a toss in 10 minutes.
9:55am - England’s hopes of moving to the summit of the International Cricket Council rankings in all three formats were extinguished by bad weather at Edgbaston on Wednesday. A 5-0 whitewash was required to achieve that feat but the home side must today, in the fourth of five one-day internationals, focus on securing a victory that would seal a series success.
9:45am - Welcome to our live coverage from the Emirates Durham ICG, where England - already 2-0 up in the NatWest Series - are taking on Australia. The weather in these parts is usually reliable for one thing: rain. Well, I am pleased to report it's dry and the forecast is good so we should start on time.