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All-round Root stars as England take 2-0 lead

Alex Hales notched a half-century AFP

England 6 for 274 (Bairstow 60, Hales 57, Starc 4-57) beat Australia 9 for 270 (Finch 106) by 4 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

"It was surrounded by Jason's incredible innings, but I've no doubt somebody else would've put their hand up if needed." With these words Eoin Morgan summed up England's confidence after an opening win in Melbourne. Five days later at the Gabba it proved a prescient assessment, as the visitors did without a Jason Roy special to again run rings around a desperately muddled Australia.

Clearly, Australia's decision-makers had judged themselves to have not made enough runs in Melbourne - Adam Zampa was out and Cameron White in. As if to take the mickey out of that choice, England employed three spinners to bog down the hosts after Steven Smith won the toss, before taking a horrid toll on Travis Head when he was employed as the quasi-specialist Australian slow bowler.

A tally of 270 seemed inadequate given how truly the Gabba pitch played, and so it was to prove, even if there was no spinal innings by England to rank with Jason Roy's record ODI score of 180. Though Mitchell Starc scooped four wickets and Jhye Richardson impressed on debut, Australia had not made enough runs to trouble a long England batting order that enjoyed sizeable contributions from Jonny Bairstow, Alex Hales and the "rudder" Joe Root. Chris Woakes provided the exclamation point to a chase that left no fewer than 34 balls to spare. It was England's first ODI win at the ground in nearly two decades.

Given Starc's improved display, more impetus with the bat or the selection of an extra bowler may well have made a difference, but this served mainly to emphasise the fact that Australia seem a long way behind England in terms of tactical thinking in the 50-over format. Role clarity in the batting order seems a particularly urgent issue for a team where playing for one's place is in apparent vogue.

The search for a deeper Australian batting line-up was underlined by the fact that Alex Carey, having made a century opening for Adelaide Strikers on Wednesday night, came in as low as No. 8. However, there was a curious lack of intent or role clarity about the way Australia's innings unfolded, as England again pressured the hosts into losing wickets at the wrong times. In the final 11 overs when they should have been on the attack, the Australians lost a sickly 6 for 62.

Aaron Finch made his second consecutive century but others seemed unwilling to push the scoring rate while he settled in for a long occupation, a situation compounded when Finch was again dismissed just as the Australians needed to accelerate. In contrast to Australia's decision to omit Zampa for White, England used spin to great effect, as Moeen Ali was again economical, Adil Rashid took vital wickets after being attacked early on, and Root's part-timers winkled out captain Smith.

Woakes also delivered tight spells for Morgan, counterbalancing a somewhat less dangerous outing for Mark Wood than he had delivered at the MCG. Together they ensured an average Gabba tally for Australia - all on a pitch that looked hard and brimful of runs. Certainly this looked to be the case when England's pursuit began, even if Roy perished without making a dent in the target.

Starc found early inswing to the right-hander, enough to coax Roy into flicking to a neatly placed short midwicket and giving Australia the early wicket they needed. Nevertheless, Bairstow and Hales were unperturbed, taking the attack to the home pacemen with a level of intelligent intent that had Smith calling in Head as early as the seventh over. David Warner had been glimpsed trying his occasional leg breaks during the dinner interval, as good a sign that the hosts needed another spinner in their team - whether Zampa or Nathan Lyon - as any.

Richardson had been thrust into the team due to an ill Josh Hazlewood and a resting Pat Cummins, but his combination of slippery pace, swing and variations looked quite quickly to be of international standard. Just when Australia were sagging, he nabbed Hales and Bairstow in consecutive overs to tighten things up once more. When Starc disturbed Morgan's stumps the game looked up for grabs.

England's resilience and confidence were demonstrated by Root and Jos Buttler, who regrouped while barely allowing the run rate to dip - a skill the Australians would be apt to learn. They added a busy 68 in 10 overs, again taking a toll on Head's offspin and forcing Smith to bring back his fast men even though they were running out of overs.

While Starc was able to provide the requisite breakthroughs in his final over - Buttler edging a reversing ball from around the wicket and Moeen castled by a ball swerving viciously at his toes - only a hat-trick would have done. Woakes and Root were left with an equation asking for fewer than four an over, and the lack of scoreboard pressure or top line bowling to face allowed them to advance confidently to the win.

It took only a few balls to be clear that this was an even better surface for batting than that prepared in Melbourne. Where Warner had been discomforted by Wood at the MCG, here he was able to pull and cut with relative impunity. Finch also favoured the cross bat shots, and it appeared the Australians would push along at a more rapid rate than in game one.

However, through alert rotation of his bowlers, and extensive use of spin, Morgan was able to prevent the Australians from getting away. At the same time Warner and Finch seemed curiously uninterested in taking the initiative, and Warner paid for his lapse into a tentative approach by snicking Moeen to slip off the open face of the bat - evidence of spin raised questions about the wisdom of dropping Zampa for the Gabba.

While Finch set himself for another long innings, Smith seemed to be trying to do likewise as the run rate dawdled at little more than five per over. While Rashid faced early punishment, the introduction of Root's part-time offspin brought further indecision and a critical wicket when Smith was pinned lbw by a delivery that turned just enough and was shown to be flicking the leg bail after Smith's inevitable decision review.

Head was similarly unable to wriggle free of English spin, and a tame return catch had Marsh being sent in ahead of an official batting order that had listed White at No. 5. Australian anxiety was shown when Marsh escaped being run out by a camera frame in the same Moeen over when a thin edge from Finch was grassed by Buttler. As in Melbourne, Marsh played calmly if slowly, and was there to see Finch to his second hundred in consecutive innings.

But the moment Marsh tried to accelerate he chose the wrong ball to advance at Rashid, running so far down the wicket that Buttler could take two swings with his gloves before completing the stumping. Compounding his dismissal at a similar stage in Melbourne, Finch then clumped to mid-on and admonished himself before the ball even reached Roy. Stoinis edged a lovely, looping and bouncing leg break from Rashid to be well taken by Buttler, leaving Carey and White with a decidedly weak position from which to accelerate in the closing overs.

Carey offered a handy cameo in which he showed the ability to manipulate the field and hit sweetly over cover, but the innings ended with the distinct impression that England were the happier of the two teams: the stony-faced visage of Smith in Australia's viewing area said as much. It had not improved by the end of the night, which in Ashes presentation terms showed two fingers raised for England.