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January 14, 2014
England 8 for 264 (Buttler 61, Ballance 56, Muirhead 3-52) beat Prime Minister's XI 92 (Bopara 4-3) by 172 runs
England won a game on Australian soil for the first time since mid-November, although there were still a couple of areas of concern despite the wide margin of victory. Alastair Cook's run of single-figure scores continued and England were in a spot of bother at 5 for 129 halfway through the match but Gary Ballance and Jos Buttler struck fifties before the bowlers dismantled the Prime Minister's XI in 26 overs.
With Mitchell Johnson in line to return for Australia in Brisbane on Friday, having sat out the first ODI, footage of Cook and Joe Root falling to the pace of Brett Lee - 37 years old but still with a click in his heels - will doubtless make the video dossier compiled by Darren Lehmann's analysts. Root followed up a 23-ball 3 on Sunday with 1 off 14 balls in Canberra and, without a half-century since making 87 in the second Test, his form is a cause for concern.
Ravi Bopara was again deployed as England's fifth bowler and he ran through to tail to produce eye-catching figures of 4 for 3 from three overs. The rest of the attack all performed creditably, against a batting line-up that seasoned youth with a couple of experienced hands; Boyd Rankin, Chris Jordan, Tim Bresnan and James Tredwell sharing five wickets.
"It's great to get a win. It's going to be a morale-boost for everyone, no matter who it is against," Buttler said afterwards, his comments reflecting just how difficult this tour has become for England since they beat a CA Invitational XI in Sydney two months ago, in the final warm-up before the Tests.
"There were a lot of positives that came out of today. We got up to a challenging total and put them under pressure straight away with the ball. We had a lot of energy and we really tried to target early wickets and we got those. Everyone is pleased to get a win and hopefully we can take that momentum forward to Brisbane."
As in Melbourne, which ended in a six-wicket win for Australia, Cook won the toss and chose to bat, only to be sent back inside the first over - this time caught behind off a short ball from Lee. Root also did not last long but Michael Carberry, in the side for Ian Bell, steadied the innings with 47, only for another wobble to ensue. Ballance compiled 56, with just three boundaries, and Buttler then added 80 in partnership with Bresnan to help post a competitive total - perhaps aided by Lee only bowling seven overs, due to the heat.
With Steven Finn again left out - his tour remains stuck in a rut - and Ben Stokes rested, Rankin and Jordan continued to lead the pace attack. Jordan made the opening incision, as Peter Handscomb dragged on for 8, and Rankin then struck twice in consecutive overs. When Brad Hodge, another former Australia international in his late thirties, who top-scored with 28, picked out Carberry in the deep trying to slog Tredwell's offspin, the PM XI were struggling on 4 for 58.
Bopara then had a hand in each of the last five wickets to fall, including a run-out, as the end came quickly. The chances of Australia being similarly obliging at the Gabba appear slim.
Alan Gardner is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Alan Gardner
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