Australia v England, 1st ODI, Melbourne January 16, 2011

Watson's epic guides Australia to victory


Australia 4 for 297 (Watson 161*) beat England 294 (Pietersen 78, Strauss 63) by six wickets

Shane Watson produced one of Australia's finest one-day hundreds to carry them to a record-breaking six-wicket win at the MCG with the highest successful chase on the ground. His unbeaten, career-best 161, Australia's fifth highest individual effort, allowed them to hunt down 295 with five balls to spare and take an early lead in the seven-match series.

After a summer that has become synonymous with Watson's fifties this was a huge moment for the allrounder and both his hundred, and later the 150, were celebrated with arms aloft in front of an appreciative 34,000 fans. He kept his cool when the asking rate began to climb and fittingly was the man to finish it with a six over long-off.

On a surface where scoring became hard work against spin and a soft ball this was a mammoth pursuit and for most of the time Australia had it under control. However, there was just a moment when England were giving themselves a chance, partly helped by a painful innings from Michael Clarke who eventually drove to mid-off.

Steve Smith was then strangely promoted to No.4, clearly to take advantage of the Powerplay, above the likes of Cameron White and the Hussey brothers. He swung wildly before being caught at short third-man and although Australia had plenty of wickets left it gave England a timely boost. However, Mike Hussey provided the late spark with 21 off 15 balls and Cameron White, in front of his home supporters, had the muscle to ease the pressure.

This, though, was Watson's match. He was quickly out of the blocks with a second-ball clip to fine leg and collected boundaries in each of the first five overs against Tim Bresnan and Chris Tremlett. He and Brad Haddin knew how important it was to make the most of the hard ball before the spinners could start have a say on proceedings.

Tremlett nearly provided the breakthrough when Watson top-edged a pull but Jonathan Trott couldn't back-pedal far enough at mid-on. Andrew Strauss opted to hold back his bowling Powerplay to try and reign in the scoring with his slow bowlers, but after three overs called the restrictions which signalled another charge from the openers.

Bresnan's comeback over went for nine and Shahzad's opening two deliveries were dispatched by Haddin who was starting to catch up with his partner. The breakthrough went to Graeme Swann as Haddin tried to clear the large leg-side boundary. Watson, though, continued towards his hundred with the occasional four to keep the required rate under control. When he reached three figures he had nearly two thirds of Australia's runs.

However, problems were starting to develop at the other end. Clarke, filling Ricky Ponting's shoes at No.3, continued to be horribly out of form and his 57-ball 36 put increasing pressure on Watson. Clarke was even booed by home supporters when he played out dots and cheered when he got off strike. For his sake it was a good job Watson got them over the line.

England will see this as a major missed opportunity because Australia were poor in the field, but they kept giving away wickets after an opening stand of 90 in 12 overs between Strauss and Steve Davies. The next best partnership was 50 for the sixth wicket between Kevin Pietersen, who top-scored with 78, and Michael Yardy, but Pietersen fell early in the batting Powerplay which hampered England's chances of a late charge.

This was Pietersen's first fifty-plus score in one-dayers since he made an unbeaten 111 at Cuttack in November 2008, although due to injury and being dropped he has only had 17 innings in that period. Still, having been brought back at the expense of Paul Collingwood, who paid for his poor Ashes form, he needed to justify that faith and it went to plan until Mitchell Johnson's superb soccer skills found him well short.

Pietersen and Ian Bell were starting to form a useful stand when Smith chipped in with two important wickets. It was a good day for Australia's part-time spinners because David Hussey also bagged a brace. Smith had Bell and Eoin Morgan caught in the covers to leave England 5 for 186 and needing a rebuilding job.

However, Haddin had a shocking day behind the timber and the third of his misses reprieved Pietersen on 37 moments after the loss of Morgan. Instead, Pietersen responded with consecutive straight sixes off Hussey to move to his fifty and later added a third when he drilled Xavier Doherty into the sightscreen.

Davies had been the earlier major beneficiary of Australia's generosity in the field when he was given four lives; a missed run out, being caught off a no-ball against Brett Lee, Haddin's first missed stumping and a sharp catch to cover. There was also some wayward bowling to feast on from Johnson and Doug Bollinger before Davies missed a big sweep at Hussey, who then claimed Trott.

Strauss had also been given a life on 48, another error from Haddin, and looked set to make Australia pay until the lack of pace off the surface led to him spooning Lee to midwicket. In the end the lack of a batsman converting to three figures hurt England. Watson showed what a difference it can make.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Mick on January 19, 2011, 19:42 GMT

    straight_drive4 -

    you really have it in for Victorians don't you. 'All Victorians'.......when someone makes silly comments like that then it's just not worth the effort. That said though, I wasn't bringing Clarke's place in the team into question. Haddin yes, not Clarke. Australia can't afford to discard Clarke, too much invested in him. That Clarke once scored a 100 in India is lovely. Noting his S/R was 80, for his 111 after Aust lost 2 early, and Cam White cam in with 89 off 49 to set a decent target which got eaten up by India with Kohli showing Clarke how to do it with a run a ball 118 after Inida had been 2-35. But no, Clarke is a super star and his current form is just impeccable, isn't it. Point is still, at 1-200 with the RRReq creeping up and 8 batters in the shed, Clarke was getting bogged down exactly when he needing to accelarate. No need to be a rhodes scholar there. The booing was more like murmerings of discontent, and OTHER players have drawn that ire too.

  • damien on January 19, 2011, 10:57 GMT

    Hey wombats I can see why you spend so much time doing this, it's addictive! And matty I did admit you are better than us surely you understood it was very clear. But "far superior" is a bit of a stretch , you guys at the top of your game doing everything right, full of confidence , and playing great cricket . Us playing poorly, selection in an absolute mess , questioning our proven players and confidence at an all time low, and the series deadlocked after 3 tests! We are still alot closer than you care to admit. And judging by your brilliant defence of 294 against a "far inferior" side, england wont be adding any silverware after the WC. I also noticed that captain cool quickly turned into captain cranky after a few overthrows and things not going quite to plan. Who knows the next rout for 51 like the far inferior Windies inflicted on you not that long ago could be just around the corner!

  • Martin on January 19, 2011, 8:43 GMT

    @Meety; you are getting tedious. Everyone knows I love a good argument about luck. I never claimed Australias win in the 1st ODI was luck - and I'll go toe-to-toe for as long as you like about the luck involved in johnson kicking down KP's stumps. I actually said Watsons inning was worthy - perhaps you didn't read that part. If it was Tremlett kicking down Watsons stumps I'd have said the same thing - pure luck. Time to move on. Goodbye.

  • John on January 19, 2011, 5:43 GMT

    So it turns out Swann was hurt and is now going to miss a couple of weeks. The suggestion that England was trying to bend the rules to use Colly in the field was indeed Aussie paranioa. @Meety: when one guy makes 161* and no-one else makes 40, it seems to me that the side was carried by one man. I'll agree that he paced the chase well- he had to, since he was doing most of the work. Not England's best performance, but their problems pale by comparison with Australia's. With Hussey gone, who makes runs in the middle order- Hastings? In which game will Tait get injured ? Does Hauritz finally get a game against England and, if so, how many stumpings will Haddin miss off him? Should Johnson be trying out for the Aussie World Cup soccer team, since he is evidently a better soccer player than bowler? Is Steve Smith's batting more like a tennis player or a baseball player? Will Bollinger's bowling cause him to tear his hair out (again)? Deep questions indeed.

  • Marcio on January 19, 2011, 4:32 GMT

    @Matty_Clark, you & your mates don't get it, do you? The Ashes are over. Aust does not have a shortage of talent, as you wishfully imagine. If Eng is so full of talent and AUS so short, why have all 3 short games gone down to the wire? The truth is that talent wise these are two evenly matched teams. Preparation doesn't matter so much for the shorter games, so the idiocy of CA & team management isn't affecting results so much (though in the longer run it will continue to do so). Take a look at how many wickets Eng has been losing per game vs AUS recently. Even when Eng won on the last ball in the 1st T20 they were 9 down vs AUS' 4 down at the end of their innings. AUS only lost 4 wickets in getting to 295 last game - Eng were bowled out. That should tell you something obvious - so obvious I won't mention it. Anyway, back to reality, where a tightly contested 1 day series is being fought - pretty much like the last 50 over series which Eng won 3-2, the 3rd game being won by 1 wkt.

  • Andrew on January 19, 2011, 0:25 GMT

    @5wombats - you are turning into the biggest hypocrite, you make comments like you don't get into arguements about luck - but as soon as the Poms lose you start whiinging about luck. MJ has hit the stumps more times by kicking the ball than bowling it - & he has a history of running batsmen out at the strikers end. I previously noted that he was dropped on 44 by Trott - but it would of been just about the catch of the Summer. To bring in drop catches & crap like that opens up a whole can of what could of should of beens.

  • Martin on January 18, 2011, 22:07 GMT

    @Meety- yes indeed - PURE LUCK kicking down KP's stumps. These are the facts; Watson was dropped on 44 (if you thought it was 120 then your memory must be fading) - he cashed in big time and played a great innings which deserved to win the game. Cricket is like that and sometimes its just your day. Any further clarification needed - don't hesitate to ask. Not sure why you are carrying on - Aus won didn't they? Enjoy it while it lasts would be my advice. As for you @_Witty; your comments are like my mother in laws cooking; best taken with a pinch of salt. @Meety; you are going to be proven wrong about Anderson. People often forget that cricket statistics describe THE PAST.

  • Andrew on January 18, 2011, 19:54 GMT

    @5wombats - perhaps your memory is fading. Posted by 5wombats on (January 16 2011, 15:45 PM GMT) "Games like this are why they call Australia The Lucky Country" then again later, "...once Johnson kicked the ball onto onto KP's stumps I thought; aye aye - here we go - The Force is with Aus here..." re: Anderson - I was merely stating that he is not as good as he is in Tests. Also the Lee, Tait & MJ trio are better stat wise.

  • William on January 18, 2011, 18:36 GMT

    whofriggincares, perhaps you didn't notice that this Ashes victory was practically as comprehensive as Australia's in 2007. In all likelihood, given the sparsity of Australia's options at the moment, it seems probable that a few more years of dominance are to follow don't you think? And in the last couple of years or so, Australia simply haven't been used to winning, so there's no point dwelling on the successes of the past. Just stop trying to save face and admit, along with your other Aussie friends, that England are a far superior team at the moment. Even in the last game, you only won thanks to a once-in-a-lifetime performance from Watson!

  • John on January 18, 2011, 12:21 GMT

    @5wombats, Johnson kicking the ball onto the stumps is LUCKY? So he's had awfully good luck then, three times this summer alone, and quite a few more in his international career. Damn that's some good luck, wonder why it's all gone to Johnson? Admit it, you know it wasn't luck, it was mad soccer skills.

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