White hundred takes Australia to victory
Australia 277 for 5 (White 106, Hussey 72*) beat Middlesex 273 for 5 (Shah 92, Newman 55*, Bollinger 3-24) by five wickets
Cameron White hit 106 in a 176-run stand with Mike Hussey to rescue Australia from a top-order wobble as the visitors secured a hard-earned five-wicket victory against Middlesex, captained by Adam Gilchrist, at Lord's. After being made to sweat by Ireland on Thursday this wasn't a comfortable outing, either, as a rusty attack was taken for 273 before the reply slipped to 64 for 4.
A little over a month ago Hussey played one of most extraordinary innings imaginable to take Australia home in the World Twenty20 semi-final against Pakistan in St Lucia, while White also played a vital hand in a run chase that seem impossible. The outcome of this match held far less significance and, having steadied the innings from the early wobble, the pair constructed their stand with consummate ease against a weak bowling line-up with the honourable exception of Tim Murtagh.
Knowing the opposition were short of depth the pair didn't worry about the run rate and instead ticked over with good running, collecting the boundaries when they were on offer. White went to his hundred from 114 balls before miscuing to mid on, but Hussey ensured there were no late alarms along side Steven Smith.
"I've played a few games here, a couple for Australia and a few for Somerset when I played county cricket and never got a hundred," White said. "Although it was only a practice match or warm-up match, it's not every day is it you play here and it was nice to get some runs at Lord's.
"Middlesex to their credit bowled very well at the start. It was good to win from that position and obviously Mike Hussey batted beautifully as well."
However, Australia will not be able to sit entirely comfortably heading into Tuesday's opening ODI against England. A number of bowlers still appear short of work and here it was only Doug Bollinger who impressed with 3 for 24 from eight overs as Owais Shah made 92 following Gilchrist's 38. Scott Newman ensured a positive end to Middlesex's innings with 55 off 40 balls.
Australia's chase had started with a flurry of boundaries before Tim Paine fell in extremely unfortunate style as Murtagh spilled a return catch off Shane Watson but parried the ball into the non-striker's stumps. Runs continued to flow at a rapid rate as Robbie Williams bowled too full until a more conventional run out ended Watson's innings as David Warner, his Twenty20 opening partner, hit direct from point.
A mini-collapse was officially underway when Michael Clarke followed his five-ball duck against Ireland with a two-ball nought as he was trapped lbw by Murtagh, who repeated the dose to add the notable scalp of Ricky Ponting to his list as the Australia captained shuffled across his crease. At 64 for 4 Australia were in a hole, but Hussey and White have faced far tougher situations in their careers.
The early interest in the match surrounded Gilchrist coming up against his former team-mates and he briefly showed the power he used to unleash with straight sixes off Clint McKay and Shane Watson. But he fell playing a Twenty20-style scoop which flew to deep square-leg leaving Shah to control the innings.
Shah has been discarded by the England set-up following the Champions Trophy having struggled to fit into the ethos of fitness and fielding excellence, but he had actually been a consistent run-scorer in the one-day format. He came to the crease in the first over and was set for a hundred before picking out long on in the 47th over. There were three solid stands; 67 with Gilchrist, 88 for the fourth wicket with Neil Dexter - Middlesex's next captain once Gilchrist departs - and 63 for the fifth with Newman as the pair took advantage of the final Powerplay to boost Middlesex's total.
The match started with 13 Australian cricketers on the field, but Warner couldn't see out the first over when he drove without footwork at the impressive Bollinger and was well caught by Paine diving to his left. Gilchrist's departure was soon followed by Dawid Malan, who fell in similar fashion as he tried to clear the leg side and sent a spiralling top edge to Paine as the wicketkeeper sprinted to take the catch at square leg. Shah and Dexter produced a solid stand of 88 for the fourth wicket as Ponting gave all his bowlers a work out.
Smith, the legspinner, was expensive during his seven overs while McKay continued to struggle. Dexter became Bollinger's third wicket but Newman, who has struggled for runs this season after his move across the river from Surrey, struck the ball sweetly when the field came in. As Australia's reply stuttered Gilchrist will have had hope of turning over his mates, but he will also have appreciated the skills of White and Hussey. Come Tuesday at The Rose Bowl he'll only be supporting one team.
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo