England fought their way back into the ODI series on Tuesday at Old Trafford with a resounding 93-run win, led by James Taylor’s century and the immaculate spin bowling of Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali. Australia had taken the first two games of the five-match ODI series, and looked to be on course for a retaliatory victory after losing the Ashes earlier in the summer, but England’s response has blown the contest wide open and placed huge significance on Friday’s 4th ODI at Headingley.
Events conspired in England’s favour somewhat in the build-up to the third ODI, with Australia suffering yet more withdrawals from the squad due to injury, and the fallout from Ben Stokes’ dismissal in the previous game giving them extra motivation. Stokes became just the sixth player ever to be dismissed for obstructing the field when Mitchell Starc’s throw at the stumps hit his hand as he tried to return to his crease. The dismissal polarized opinion in the cricket world, with Aussie captain Steve Smith unrepentant about his decision to uphold the appeal, while others labelled the dismissal ridiculous.
We tipped England to turn the tables and fight back in the third ODI, and they did just that to complete an important victory. James Taylor hit his maiden one-day international century, with 101 from 114 balls. Despite criticism in some quarters for the pace at which he reached his total and the lack of big-hitting, it was a great achievement for a player who grabbed his opportunity after Joe Root was rested for the series. He had to rebuild twice during his innings after losing Roy and Morgan, but he retained his composure to see out the century and lead England to 300-8.
Australia’s response was led by Aaron Finch, who had been recalled due to the tourist’s injury problems. He was part of the World Cup winning side, but had hamstring surgery after the end of the Indian Premier League and was expected to be out for the duration of the summer with a foot injury. He was one of three players recalled from county cricket to help cope with Australia’s injury problems, which have seen them lose no fewer than seven players since the start of the tour. Finch was restored immediately to the top order, and opened alongside Joe Burns. He hit 53 as the Aussies top scorer with the bat, but England swept through the middle order to bowl Australia out for 207 and take the match.
England’s Spin Twins
Much focus was on England’s ‘Spin Twins’, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali. The pitch at Old Trafford was expected to suit the spinners, but England’s pair performed much better than their Australian counterparts, with Rashid claiming 2-41 and Ali taking 3-32. Captain Eoin Morgan praised their performances as ‘outstanding’, saying that neither bowled any bad balls and that they took full advantage of conditions.
They were certainly helped by some incredible fielding on the day, which saw Finn and Roy both produce exceptional diving catches. Finn stretched full length at short mid-wicket to catch the all-important wicket of Aussie captain Steve Smith, and despite his modest reflection on the catch when he said he didn’t know why people were raving about it, he will probably never make such an incredible catch again in his career. Roy almost matched his brilliance when he plucked the ball out of the night air after Agar had lifted high to long-on, taking the catch at the second attempt as he fell backwards.
England’s best point of attack at Headingley can again come from the two spinners, and selectors will be all the more pleased to see them getting plenty of action ahead of the upcoming series with Pakistan, where games are expected to be played on typically slow wickets.
Australia’s Crumbling Squad
Wicketkeeper Brad Haddin has become the latest Australian to retire from test cricket, the fourth player to do so since the Ashes after Michael Clarke, Shane Watson and Chris Rogers, although Watson remains available for limited-overs cricket. Haddin had already retired from ODI’s in May after winning the World Cup, but along with injuries, the Aussie squad that was so successful earlier this year is being broken up at an alarming rate. Opener David Warner and fast-bowler Nathan Coulter-Nile are big absences for the tourists, and the omissions due to injury now number seven since the start of the tour.
The Aussies lack of some of their top stars must have assisted England, who have had a largely settled side for the ODI’s. This England side has been in a period of transition since the poor showing at the World Cup, and a new style of aggressive cricket bore fruit in the ODI series with New Zealand in June. They took that into the Ashes, and although new coach Trevor Bayliss has plenty to improve upon, the early signs are more than promising. A side that plays that type of cricket however, is reliant to an extent on confidence and momentum. When things are going your way every delivery pitches perfectly, and every strike with the bat hits the sweet spot.
Equally, with England’s spin bowlers in imperious form it makes sense to follow one of them in the bowling stakes, and Adil Rashid makes plenty of appeal to rip through the Aussies as he did at Old Trafford.
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