Australia coast to victory over England
An awesome display by Australia's batsmen condemned England to their 11th successive defeat in limited-overs cricket in a match that was totally dominated by Australia as they coasted to victory by eight wickets.
Their powerful all-round ability was much in evidence throughout as they made this last match before the NatWest Series final on Saturday look like a practice game in preparation for the showdown with Pakistan. They appeared unconcerned and at ease in facing the victory target of 177 set by England.
England did claim an early wicket when Matthew Hayden mistimed his pull to be caught for eight off Andy Caddick with the total on 39. Thereafter, it all went Australia's way with Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist quickly getting the measure of the England attack.
The fifty partnership came from 45 balls as they kept pace with each other. Gilchrist reached his half-century first from 54 balls, 40 of those runs coming from boundaries.
Ponting raced to his fifty from 45 balls which included six fours and two sixes off Caddick. The first was an effortless lift over mid-wicket and the second over fine leg which also brought up Australia's hundred.
The England bowling made little impression on the two Australians as they comfortably piled on the runs. Only half-way through their innings, Australia were already 157 for one needing just 20 for victory. Five overs later it was all over with man-of-match Ponting unbeaten on 70 from 71 balls.
England did get a consolation wicket in the 27th over when Robert Croft took a return catch from Gilchrist. His was another brilliant knock with 80 coming from 90 balls, 14 of which were hit to the boundary.
Earlier in the day, a timely flourish from the England lower order batsmen propped up the innings which was on the verge of disintegrating. Caddick with 36 not out from 44 balls led the hard-hitting spree along with Croft who showed his usefulness with the bat with 20 valuable runs when they were so needed by England.
Of the frontline batsmen only Nick Knight, who missed his half-century by two runs, seemed to settle against the early onslaught of Australia's fast bowlers. Apart from him, the innings of Ben Hollioake would have raised England's hopes. He opened his account with two boundaries to extra cover off Glenn McGrath, but was unlucky to be run out later on 22, from a deflection off the bowler as he backed up for a run.
Australia's bowlers had struck just when England seemed to have made a recovery after the the loss of Marcus Trescothick's wicket in the first over of the match - without a run on the board - when he played on to McGrath. Australia struck three times in quick succession to take early control of the England innings.
On 51 for one, Alec Stewart, 22 from 46 balls, was caught, pushing to point in Brett Lee's second over after he had replaced McGrath and then in the next over, the 16th of the morning, Ian Harvey had Owais Shah caught behind for one.
England were 53 for three and to push them deeper into trouble, Lee claimed his second wicket. Alastair Brown failed to keep down a lifting ball which was not much short of a length, and was caught at gully off his gloves.
England, having decided to make first use of The Oval pitch which is usually full of runs, had lost their last three wickets within four overs and in a space of eight runs to be reduced to 59 for four.
McGrath was back in the attack for the 23rd over and with his fourth ball he had Paul Collingwood taken at first slip off the outside edge from a push. It left England struggling on 81-5.
When England had been dismissed for 176, Lee had captured three wickets for 63 while McGrath and Harvey had two each.