England won by 15 runs
England took the first step towards becoming the first side to top all three world rankings simultaneously by swatting Australia aside at Lord’s. Having lost a significant toss and been put in to bat in incredibly tough conditions early on, this probably counts as one of the home side’s better one-day victories of recent times. As much as we enjoy taking shots at this Australian team, they haven’t quite mastered the ‘beat yourselves at all costs’ mentality of the West Indies yet and thus present more of a challenge.
This may prove to be quite a crucial win for England – clearly they managed to get the Aussie’s backs up pre-series, although it’s not entirely clear how, and so it was vital they reinforced their psychological advantage early on. On top of that they’re now much more reliant on Eoin Morgan’s hitting in the closing stage, which meant his superb innings was a timely return to form. It’s amazing what not perching your arse on the floor as the bowler’s running in can do for a player. The bowling display also vindicated their new policy of picking a full strength attack, as each seamer chipped in with two wickets each.
The only real disappointment was that their run of opener centuries came to an end at six, although the performances of Alastair Cook and Ian Bell to see out the first 10 overs cannot be underestimated. Had one fallen England could suddenly have found themselves losing a couple more in a hurry and almost out of the game before it had begun.
Ah, Australia, it’s good to have you back. After all their talk of vastly improved bowling attacks and England’s lack of batting depth, they let the hosts get away from them despite the helpful conditions early on and their own middle order was ruthlessly exposed during a match-defining collapse. The warning signs were there in the West Indies, where they were consistently blitzed in the ‘death’ overs, but they don’t seem to have been addressed at all. Today it seemed like the fourth and fifth bowlers – Ashes hero Xavier Doherty and nobody’s hero Shane Watson – couldn’t keep the scoring rate down in the middle of the innings and so the likes of Brett Lee had to be brought back early, meaning they couldn’t bowl as many as Michael Clarke would have wanted at the end. Whatever the reason, they can’t afford to keep letting it slip with the ball.
For a while they were in control with the bat, thanks to Dave Warner in particular, but the top six looks unbelievably vulnerable as it is right now. We have made no secret of our
admiration deep, passionate love for Steve Smith, but is he really the sixth best batsman available? If he isn’t going to bowl (and recent history would suggest approximately no one outside the walls of 51allout rates his bowling in the slightest) it’s difficult to see what purpose he is serving in the side. They look to be badly missing Mike Hussey. At least someone is.
England will be favourites again at the Oval on Sunday, but their biggest worry will be that their game plan – a strong bowling attack at the expense of an extra batsman – is quite vulnerable to Australia’s ‘early wickets at all costs’ mentality. Generally the Oval pitch is as flat as the atmosphere in our living room the day Pune were knocked out of the IPL, which should suit England simply because their bowlers seem less dependant on helpful conditions. As much as we desperately, desperately want a 5-0 win (we’re serious here, we’d sell the Australian guy’s kidneys for a whitewash) it’s difficult to see the tourists’ blitzkrieg approach not coming off once in the series. It could happen on Sunday, or it could happen when the pre-Ashes bandwagon rolls up north next week. And that is what they call ‘insight’ in these parts.