For the second time in a row in the ongoing edition of Champions Trophy, England failed to last their complete quota of 50 overs in their match against Australia. After a tremendous start by Strauss and Bell during which both the openers greeted Glen McGrath’s first delivery they faced to a boundary, England’s middle order again collapsed and were bundled out for 169 from 45 overs.
Though Australia had some hiccups earlier in their innings, in the end they won the match very convincingly with the birthday boy Damien Martyn making a solid 78 in a superb batting display which made the English bowlers look quite ordinary.
At 83 for no wicket England was well on their way to a total of at least 250 which could have given them a chance to beat the Aussies. But after the first wicket fell at that score England’s batting succumbed to the unlikely bowling pair of Shane Watson and Mitchell Johnson. Both of them accounted for three wickets each with Watson returning an impressive tally of 3 for 16 in seven overs. Mitchell Johnson too bowled with impeccable line and length and proved that his DLF cup performance against India was no fluke.
In one of the spectacular collapses of ODI cricket England lost their 10 wickets for 86 runs and their final total of 169 was never a challenging total for Australia. But when the Aussies lost their first three wickets for 34, it seemed as if we will have a contest at hand. Gilchrist was bowled comprehensively by Sajid Mahmood’s first ball after a brief interruption of play as one of the light towers lost power. Ponting’s misery on Indian wickets continued as he became the next victim for Sajid Mahmood when he edged an outswinger and Andrew Strauss took an excellent catch in the first slip. Watson then attempted a horrendous shot of the bowling of James Anderson and was clean bowled after making a confident 21.
Michael Hussey then joined Damien Martyn and they both added 118 runs in a partnership that was mixed with both caution and aggression and for the umpteenth time the Aussies sealed a victory with their middle order holding the fort.
Some positives that England can take from this match in their preparation for defending the Ashes this winter are 1) Finally Glen McGrath started to show his age in his bowling . He looked very normal bowling at a military medium pace and was not even a shadow of the menacing bowler he was just a year back. 2) Ian Bell found the form that deserted him in almost all of his batting stints against England’s arch rival. 3) Australian skipper Ricky Ponting’s continuing poor form (though to balance this out England's skipper too struggled with the bat).
But for those very few bright spots, England looked very much a bunch of losers after put into bat by Ricky Ponting and went through the motion of completing the proceedings as they did against India. It now looks almost certain that instead of Australia, England will be the one that would be waiting down under for Aussies to join them for the Ashes. If this match indicates any signs of the type of encounters we are going to witness during this winter’s Ashes Series then it would be quite one-sided and might make McGrath’s 5-0 prediction come true.