Watson and Ponting sink England
Shane Watson and Ricky Ponting produced a batting masterclass to ease defending champions Australia into the ICC Champions Trophy final.
Each struck commanding unbeaten centuries - their unbroken 252-run alliance was Australia’s highest for the second wicket in one-day internationals - to see off England by nine wickets with 8.1 overs to spare and book a return to Centurion for Monday’s showpiece.
Such was their assurance at the crease, offering England no chance of a breakthrough, that the result never appeared in doubt once they had overcome the early loss of Tim Paine.
Australia’s rampant pursuit firmly put in perspective England’s recovery from 101 for six to 257 all out in 47.4 overs, thanks largely to Tim Bresnan and Luke Wright’s hundred partnership, on an easy-paced pitch and lightning outfield.
Bresnan, making his first appearance of the competition due to Stuart Broad’s muscle tear in his left buttock, struck a one-day best 80 from 76 deliveries with 11 fours, but that paled into comparison to Australia’s second-wicket pair.
Man of the match Watson’s 136 not out occupied 132 balls, including 10 fours and seven sixes, while Ponting’s unbeaten 111 from 113 deliveries contained 12 fours and a maximum.
En route to his 28th ODI hundred, Ponting became the third player to reach 12,000 one-day runs after Sachin Tendulkar and Sanath Jayasuriya.
The victory rounded off a famous 24 hours for Australia after Mitchell Johnson was named Cricketer of the Year and Peter Siddle Emerging Cricketer of the Year at last night’s ICC Awards.
Johnson picked up only one wicket today but Siddle claimed 3-55, while Brett Lee and Watson each snared two. Wicketkeeper Paine took five catches and completed two run-outs.
England, who chose to bat first after Andrew Strauss won yet another toss against an unchanged Australia, were forced into three alterations, with Broad injured while Matt Prior and Ryan Sidebottom were laid low by a virus.
Bresnan and Graham Onions came in along with wicketkeeper Steven Davies for his ODI debut, who replaced Prior in England’s squad this morning, taking Ravi Bopara’s place and the gloves from Eoin Morgan on his one-day international debut.
Strauss began aggressively but fell for 14 to James Hopes’ diving catch at square-leg off Siddle. Owais Shah departed a run later for nought, strangled down leg side off Johnson.
But that did not deter opener Joe Denly and Paul Collingwood, the latter taking an immediate liking to Hopes with consecutive fours and, later in the bowler’s first over, a straight six.
They cerried the score to 68 after the first powerplay as Ponting took a second immediately and Johnson nipped the 55-run alliance in the bud thanks to Paine’s leaping catch. Collingwood’s top edge saw him depart for 34 from 30 deliveries.
Denly and Morgan accumulated steadily but the latter was caught behind soon after for 36, chasing a wide Siddle delivery. Worse followed when Watson forced Davies to play on for five before Morgan gave Paine his fourth catch.
Wright and Bresnan initially played the percentages but upped the ante against some wayward bowling. Wright carted off-spinner Nathan Hauritz for two enormous sixes over midwicket in the 35th over, signalling his intent.
Milestones came in a hurry as Bresnan’s single off Johnson at the end of the 39th brought up England’s 200 and took him to 50 from 53 deliveries. Bresnan’s next-ball four off Siddle completed the hundred partnership from 115 balls.
Wright fell two short of a half-century soon after, caught behind off Siddle to give Paine his fifth assist.
Runs continued to flow but, with the batting powerplay enforced after 45 overs, Graeme Swann was run out for 18 coming back for a second.
Bresnan looked to capitalise further but lost his middle stump to Lee before Onions was run out for one in a mix-up with James Anderson, who finished unbeaten on five.
Australia’s reply was slightly delayed by a swarm of flying insects in the middle which the Centurion groundstaff had to clear.
England made an ideal start when Onions had Paine caught behind for four in the second over, but fellow opener Watson and Ponting rapidly rebuilt.
England took the bowling powerplay after 10 overs but runs continued to flow apace as Australia reached 79 for one after 15.
Collingwood reigned them in somewhat but Ponting went to his 71st one-day fifty before Watson brought up the hundred partnership with a six off Swann that Wright could only tip over the long-on rope.
Watson joined his captain on a half-century soon after, his ninth in ODIs. He took another maximum off Swann, this time over midwicket.
Ponting reached 12,000 ODI runs when he pulled Onions for four through square-leg. He added a six in the same direction off Bresnan before effortless cover-driven four off the same bowler took him to his hundred.
Watson reached three figures for the third time in ODIs in the next over by pulling Anderson over the ropes. He repeated the trick off Bresnan and thrice off Collingwood in one over.