Stokes inspires England to much-needed win
England 8 for 316 (Buttler 71, Stokes 70, Bell 55, Faulkner 4-67) beat Australia 259 (Finch 108, Stokes 4-38) by 57 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
It has happened. It's not an apparition. England have beaten Australia. After 91 days on a gut-wrenching tour that has brought defeat and despair, they can at least remind themselves what winning a cricket match feels like after securing a 57-run victory at the WACA.
Two players with huge roles to play in the future were central to the success. Ben Stokes hit his maiden ODI fifty, a steady 70 in his new role at No. 3, then followed it with four wickets, and Jos Buttler had given England the breathing space they needed with another brilliant late-order display. Buttler hit 71 off 43 balls just when the innings was threatening to lose its way after the top three had laid the best foundation of the series.
Buttler struck four sixes, including one off Mitchell Johnson, whose 10 overs cost 72, as the final six overs of the innings brought 69 runs, with Eoin Morgan playing his part in a stand of 71. Buttler's scoop came out but it was his straight hitting that was most eye-catching and his status continues to rise, day by day. It was Buttler, too, who held the final catch to bring a rare smile to the fact of Alastair Cook and his team.
After the series was decided in Sydney, Cook said he would consider his future as one-day captain when the tour was finished but at the toss today he admitted it had been the emotion speaking and, having reflected on things for a few days in Perth, he was now "desperate" to continue in his current capacity. A win here, albeit against an Australia side without four senior players, will have lifted his spirits further.
Although there was a superbly composed hundred by Aaron Finch, his second of the series, to anchor Australia's chase there were no pyrotechnics from James Faulkner to steal the game away. This time Faulkner fell for 2, getting a thin edge as he tried to cut Stokes, much to the relief of those playing in red. The moment got the better of Stokes, who gave Faulkner a send-off, and the umpires felt they needed to step in.
Stokes also removed George Bailey, Australia's stand-in captain, through smart use of the DRS after he had spotted a thin edge on a leg-side glance, dispatched the power Glenn Maxwell who played a an ugly swipe to leg and bowled Johnson. The over in which he claimed Maxwell, the 40th of the innings, became a maiden and it was a show of his character after being one of Faulkner's victims at the Gabba although his copybook was blotted a little when he shelled Nathan Coulter-Nile for what would have been the winning moment.
Australia had raced out of the blocks in their chase as Chris Jordan struggled with his run up and Stuart Broad continued to search for rhythm. Both bowlers improved during the innings. Tim Bresnan provided the first breakthrough when Shaun Marsh carelessly guided to second slip and England's cause was helped by a stuttering comeback innings from Matthew Wade who never found his timing before finding mid-off.
At the other end, however, Finch was playing an outstanding hand and constantly scored above a run-a-ball. His first boundary was an airy drive over cover, but there was due respect shown to good deliveries then the decisiveness to pick off boundaries when they were needed. He forced Cook to change tack when he deposited James Tredwell for consecutive sixes and also drove Bresnan back over his head.
His hundred came from 97 balls but the game started to edge England's way when he guided Bresnan to third man where Broad held a good running catch.
The way England's batting order is constructed provokes much debate; this was almost the ideal formula for how they see it working. The opening stand of 87 in 12 overs was more than has been delivered of late; in the early stages, Australia's quick bowlers varied between too full and too short, which is often a failure of visiting attacks.
Stokes' innings, his maiden ODI fifty was an excellent response after he'd struggled in his first innings at No. 3 in Sydney. This time he was quickly into double figures and the brisk start he arrived on the back of allowed him time to settle. He had some tricky moments against Johnson, and on 29 edged a very tough chance to Marsh at slip, but also unfurled some eye-catching drives which were a feature of his Test century on this ground last month before top-edging a sweep off Faulkner.
Cook and Ian Bell, with 47-ball fifty, had led the positive start, hitting 12 boundaries in the first 10 overs, and Australia were as ragged as at any time in the season. Bell was given lives on 48 and 52 although neither miss was costly, as Bell flicked a poor delivery from Daniel Christian straight to short fine-leg.
There had more than a hint of anger and frustration in the England captain's batting, especially when he plundered three consecutive boundaries in Coulter-Nile's first over, but for the third time in a row he fell to Maxwell. He left with an angry swish of the bat but, by the end of the day, being England cricket captain will have felt just a little bit better.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo