Swann's five restores England's pride
Graeme Swann’s maiden five-wicket haul in one-day internationals enabled England to finish the NatWest Series, and the summer, on a high thanks to a four-wicket victory over Australia with 10 overs to spare.
In doing so the hosts avoided becoming the first side to be whitewashed in a seven-match series, although a 6-1 defeat leaves a sour taste in the mouth after the Ashes triumph.
Tomorrow both sides head to South Africa for the ICC Champions Trophy, which begins on Tuesday. England open their Group B campaign on Friday against Sri Lanka. Australia, in Group A, face West Indies a day later. Both games are in Johannesburg.
England will at least carry some momentum with them after off-spinner Swann demolished Australia’s middle and lower order with an inspired 10-over spell.
That effort left them chasing 177 for victory, and a century opening stand between Andrew Strauss and Joe Denly inside 20 overs meant an Australia fightback could not deny the hosts.
The match had turned in England’s favour when Swann was introduced in the 25th over with Australia skipper Ricky Ponting and vice-captain Michael Clarke in the process of forging a strong recovery from the early loss of their openers.
Swann deceived Ponting with his fifth delivery and, after Clarke was run out, decimated the tourists’ line-up to claim a one-day best 5-28.
The 30-year-old, who proved a constant threat on a pitch that initially appeared more suited to seam bowlers, paved the way for England to dismiss their opponents for the first time in the series - in 45.5 overs.
England were able to make crucial first use of a favourable conditions thanks to captain Strauss winning his sixth toss of the series.
James Anderson found his range immediately on a bright but fresh morning, having Shane Watson caught by Swann at first slip for nought.
Graham Onions, making his ODI debut in front of his home crowd, soon took a liking to the format when he had Tim Paine caught behind for four in the fourth over.
Ponting, who began well with consecutive fours off Anderson, survived a close lbw shout from the same bowler, on 22, shortly before Strauss opted to take the bowling powerplay at the earliest opportunity.
Tim Bresnan and Paul Collingwood, recalled in place of Dimitri Mascarenhas while Ryan Sidebottom also missed out, exerted pressure after the powerplay.
But Clarke broke the shackles by lofting Collingwood over mid-off in the 22nd over when Ponting went to 50 with an exquisite front-foot pull for four.
However, Swann then turned the innings on its head. Ponting offered an inside edge chance to Collingwood at midwicket for a 53 that included eight fours and ended a 79-run alliance with Clarke.
Clarke - one of three changes from the sixth ODI, along with Mitchell Johnson and Ben Hilfenhaus as Callum Ferguson, Peter Siddle and Nathan Bracken made way - followed suit.
He was run out for a stodgy 38 from 81 deliveries after a neat throw from Eoin Morgan at short fine-leg to bowler Collingwood at the non-striker’s end.
Swann located White’s inside edge en route to the stumps to send the powerful right-hander on his way for one. James Hopes was his next victim, a leading edge offering the simplest of caught and bowled opportunities.
Johnson struck Swann over mid-on but was caught by Anderson at extra-cover for 10 next ball, before the spinner bowled Brett Lee through the gate for nought to complete his five-for.
Nathan Hauritz fell to the part-time off-spin of Owais Shah, caught and bowled for three in a wicket maiden.
All this time number five Mike Hussey had progressed comfortably but he was last to go one short of 50, once the batting powerplay had been belatedly taken. Denly took a smart catch at mid-off to give Bresnan his first breakthrough.
Not out batsman Hilfenhaus, playing for the first time this series, and Lee struggled with overstepping early in England’s reply. Hilfenhaus conceded two free-hit fours from four no-balls, including a beamer that Denly did well to avoid.
Denly took 12 balls to get off the mark but Strauss continued his fluent form that has seen him shortlisted for the ICC Player of the Year award.
In reaching 75 without loss, Strauss and Denly brought up the highest opening partnership of the series and went on to three figures when Denly pulled Hopes for four through midwicket.
But the stand was over when, not for the first time this series, Strauss miscued a reverse-sweep. He top-edged to Hilfenhaus at backward point for 47, an innings that included four fours.
Ravi Bopara retain England’s momentum, his second four - driven off Hauritz - taking him to 1,000 ODI runs.
Denly too reached a landmark in the following over when an outside edge for four off Hopes brought up his second ODI fifty, from 75 balls.
But the right-hander perished for 53, the victim of another England run-out, as Ponting swooped from extra cover and threw to gloveman Paine.
Bopara too went soon after, lbw to Watson for 13, and Shah was caught behind off Hopes for seven immediately after lifting the bowler over mid-off for four.
England slipped to 141 for five when Morgan was caught behind for two to become Lee’s first victim - but Matt Prior, who moved down the order from four to seven, restored confidence with two fours.
Although he was caught off Hilfenhaus for 11, Collingwood’s unbeaten 13 and Bresnan’s 10 not out levelled the scores before the seamer produced his sixth no-ball.
So ended England’s longest international summer, on a gloriously sunny final day, having begun on May 6.