England take series with clinical win
England 201 for 2 (Bell 69, Trott 64*) beat Australia 200 for 9 (Hussey 70, Clarke 43, Finn 4-37) by eight wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
With an ease that would have been quite unthinkable a few years ago, England cruised to victory over Australia in the fourth ODI in Durham, with 13 deliveries and eight wickets in hand. The result not only secured the five-match series with a game to spare but also completed England's ninth successive victory in completed one-dayers - a new record for them - and secured their seventh successive series win at home.
Steven Finn, with a devastating display of fast bowling, and Ian Bell, with an assured innings in testing conditions, were the main architects of England's victory, though Ravi Bopara, with another intelligent spell of bowling and another assured innings, and Jonathan Trott, with a typically calm innings of 64 not out also contributed. England will now consider resting players for the final game in Manchester on Tuesday, with a view to ensuring the freshness of key players for the forthcoming Test series against South Africa.
Australia might count themselves somewhat unfortunate. Not only did they lose two of their bowlers - Brett Lee and Shane Wason - to injury during the game, but by winning a disproportionately important toss, England's captain Alastair Cook forced Australia to bat in desperately testing conditions, which had eased a little by the time England began their reply. Mitchell Johnson was also forced out of the Australian team for the match with an ankle injury.
But Australia would be deluding themselves if they put this result down to poor fortune. They might reflect that some of their top-order batsmen were lacking in technique and discipline against the moving ball and that their bowlers lacked the control to exploit conditions that remained helpful. While this touring squad, already missing Michael Hussey and Pat Cummins and further weakened by the absence of Johnson, is not short of potential, it is hard to recall a weaker Australian team.
That Australia were able to set any sort of competitive total was largely due to a defiant half-century from David Hussey. Hussey made 70 from 73 balls to help his side recover from the perilous position of 96 for 6 in the 33rd over. With Brett Lee he added 70 in 13 overs for the seventh wicket, helping Australia take 71 from the final 10 overs of their innings. Against a high-class attack in such conditions, their final total of 200 was not so far under par as it might have appeared.
Finn, in particular, bowled beautifully and was twice on a hat-trick. The first occasion came in his third over - a double-wicket maiden - when he trapped David Warner and Peter Forrest leg before from successive deliveries. Warner, who laboured for 19 deliveries for his two runs, was defeated when he played horribly across a straight full delivery and umpire Nigel Llong's original 'not out' decision was over turned after England utilised the Decision Review System (DRS). Forest, tentative and half forward, was beaten for pace by one that came into the batsman just a fraction off the seam. Michael Clarke was beaten through the gate by the hat-trick delivery, but the ball bounced over the stumps. Australia were 6 for 2 in the sixth over and, by the end of their first Powerplay, had scored just 15 for 2. It was their lowest 10-over Powerplay score.
Later Finn defeated Clarke's forward push with one that nipped back, before next ball Matthew Wade was brilliantly caught by a diving Craig Kieswetter off the inside edge by one that cut back into him.
James Anderson, who delivered three maidens and, with the wicket of Lee, secured his 500th international wicket, also utilised the conditions well. But it was Finn, generating sharp pace, maintaining an immaculate line and length and finding sharp seam movement, who really shone. It was another highly impressive performance from a man who still cannot be assured of a place in England's Test team.
It might have been even better for England. Eoin Morgan, at point, squandered a relatively simple chance at point as Clarke, on 8, attempted to drive Tim Bresnan - Australia would have been 17 for 3 had the catch been taken - while replays showed that Clarke should have been given leg before on 28 when he played across a straight one from Stuart Broad. England had already utilised their one unsuccessful appeal to the DRS. Clarke was also dropped, a tough chance, on 31 at first slip by Anderson off Broad.
Hussey, too, enjoyed some fortune. He narrowly survived a strong leg before appeal before he had scored and was then dropped on 15, when Bopara spurned a tough caught and bowled chance. Bell also missed a tough chance running in from the extra cover boundary when Hussey had 29, also off the deserving Bopara.
That Australia were able to set any sort of competitive total was largely due to two decent partnerships. First Watson and Clarke added 51 in 13 overs for the third wicket, before Hussey and Lee added 70 in 13 overs for the seventh. Watson finally fell, playing on as he tried to run a delivery from off stump down to third man, and George Bailey was beaten by a beauty from Bopara that pitched middle and hit the top of off stump.
If Australia were going to claw their way back into the game, they needed to bowl well and take every half-chance. But, as it was, Hussey, at second slip, was unable to reach an edge from Bell, on 21 - the score was 36 without loss - off James Pattinson that flew for Four. Cook, playing his 50th ODI, was also reprieved on 13 when Clint McKay was unable to cling on to a tough caught and bowled chance.
Nor was the bowling as tight as it might have been. Pattinson started with a no-ball that was clipped off Bell's legs for four - a stroke that Bell repeated later in the over - while Cook produced two rasping square cuts for four as Lee's second over cost 12. Ben Hilfenhaus also donated a free-hit after over stepping and was punished for two fours in an over as he over-pitched to Bell and strayed on to Cook's legs.
Bell, making light of the awkward batting conditions, reached 50 from 72 balls with seven fours - most of them sweetly timed through cover or midwicket - to sustain his excellent run of form. Since returning to the side, Bell has scored 126, 53, 41, 75 and 69 (at an average of 72.80 and a strike-rate of 81.61) to revitalise a limited-overs career that, but for Kevin Pietersen's retirement, might have been over.
Trott and Bopara, unhurried and untroubled by a weakened attack, added 65 in 15 overs without breaking sweat to take England to victory.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo