Relentless pressure from Australia's bowlers, in particular Brett Lee, proved too much for England in a pulsating finish to the second VB series final at Melbourne. Lee took three wickets in the 48th and 50th overs to deny England after their victory target had appeared well within reach. Australia have taken the series, with the third final at Adelaide now unnecessary.
England's reply began badly, with Brett Lee's express pace again undoing Marcus Trescothick, who found Andy Bichel at third man with an upper cut. The promotion of Ronnie Irani to number three backfired again as the Essex captain, after swinging Williams for one mid-wicket boundary, was well caught there in the same over close to the rope by Andrew Symonds, whose sunglasses served him well against the evening glare.
Knight, who had looked uncomfortable against Lee, was a little unfortunate to pick out Symonds at backward square leg with a firm push. But Michael Vaughan and Nasser Hussain settled England down, Vaughan with fine timing either side of the wicket and Hussain with some good fortune, edging Lee between keeper and slip and almost perishing when the ubiquitous Symonds couldn't quite hold on to a chance by the rope at deep square leg.
Shane Warne, making his one-day farewell to the MCG, was held back until the 23rd over. When he did come on he was feted by his home crowd, but it was Brad Hogg who made the breakthrough in the next over, when Hussain (28) lost his off stump hitting across the line. But Alec Stewart joined Vaughan to maintain the momentum, with 13 runs coming off Warne in the 27th over. A Matthew Hayden misfield on the mid-wicket boundary gave Vaughan his half-century.
Australia made the breakthrough they desperately needed when Vaughan, on 60, clipped Warne straight to Ricky Ponting at short mid-wicket. With the pressure mounting Stewart responded magnificently, driving Warne for ten runs off three balls to keep England on target. He went to his half century with an inside edged two in the same bowler's next over, but his terrific effort was also halted by Warne, when an airborne cut was held safely by Lee at short third man.
A booming boundary over extra cover got Andy Flintoff under way, and another in Warne's final over brought up England's 200. Paul Collingwood kept his cool with a succession of ones and twos, but Lee struck immediately on his return to york Flintoff for 16. Ian Blackwell lashed Lee to a diving Damien Martyn at deep gully, and the force was back with Australia.
A leg-side yorker was deflected on to Andy Caddick's stumps off his toes, and James Anderson was run out off his second ball, looking for a single after failing to make contact. After being favourites to win five overs from the end, England had the game stolen from them at the death.
Earlier an unbeaten 71 from Brad Hogg enabled Australia to fight back after a middle order collapse. A batting onslaught in the last ten overs propelled Australia to 229 for seven, with Hogg receiving sterling support first from Lee and then from Bichel.
In a twist so typical of this unpredictable game Warne, having been cheered all the way to the wicket on his farewell batting appearance in ODIs, was caught and bowled first ball by Irani. If there was dismay as he walked off, the cheering more than made up for it in the end, as Australia's champion was chaired off by his team at the moment of victory.