A committed bowling display led by John Lewis eased England's pain, but it was not enough to prevent another defeat that was set up by a dire batting effort. After England spluttered to 155 all out in 42 overs on a strange surface, the home team copied the mistakes and dropped to 4 for 48 before sweating to a four-wicket victory.
Despite gaining an unlikely position of strength through Lewis's three-wicket opening, England again released the pressure and Michael Hussey responded with a match-sealing 46. Hussey worked with Michael Clarke and Brett Lee, who finished on 20 after surviving a torrid spell from Andrew Flintoff, to steer the side out of trouble. However, they were fortunate to claim a bonus point from an encounter that turned out to be relatively even.
Adam Gilchrist, the stand-in captain, committed Australia's first serious lapse as he heaved Lewis to James Anderson at fine leg on 8 and Matthew Hayden was third out for 19 to a similar dismissal. After Anderson had ended Brad Hodge's one-match opening at No. 3 for 0, Lewis enticed Andrew Symonds (4) into a wild flash that he nicked to Paul Nixon. Lewis finished with 4 for 36 from his ten overs while Anderson was also impressive in claiming 2 for 29.
"You can't fault what we did in the second half," Flintoff said. "You can't fault the commitment and the way they never gave up."
Hussey and Clarke, who played sensibly for 36 off 62, crawled forward in a 45-run stand, but Lewis came back to force Clarke's exit with a leg-side caught-behind and when Cameron White was lbw to Anderson for 5 Australia were 6 for 108. It could have been worse as Hussey looked guilty when surviving a huge appeal for an edge on 19, but the shout was not supported by Daryl Harper.
The television replays were inconclusive and Hussey later defended his decision to stand his ground. "I'm not a walker, unlike 'Gilly" [Gilchrist], who walks when he nicks," Hussey said. "I take the good decisions with the bad. I just leave it up to the umpires to make the decision." The ruling became more crucial with each run he scored and added to a poor day for the visitors.
England wasted their most entertaining opening of the series with a horrific top-order collapse of 5 for 19 and they needed 31 from Jamie Dalrymple to eke out the final total. The debutant Mal Loye and Andrew Strauss gave the innings a huge boost by bringing up the 50 from 61 balls, but it was the high point of another disastrous batting performance against Australia.
They lost 3 for 1 in eight balls to fall to 5 for 71 as Glenn McGrath showed he had recovered from a minor groin problem by taking 3 for 24. His first eight overs included a hat-trick chance when he removed Ed Joyce for 5 and Paul Collingwood for a first-ball duck to Gilchrist catches.
Ian Bell's run-out was the worst of the dismissals after he was involved in a massive mix-up with Collingwood the delivery after Joyce had fallen. Bell glided Mitchell Johnson to gully and then performed a stuttering do-si-do with his partner while Cameron White dived, mis-fielded and then back-handed the ball on to the stumps. It was a stunning piece of work to end a terrible communication breakdown.
At that point the batting mood dropped from optimistic to black humour after the encouraging 52-run opening partnership. Flintoff, who was leading the team instead of Michael Vaughan, made a brief attempt at a recovery with 27, which included three fours, but he fell swiping Brett Lee to deep square leg where Hodge collected a fine running and diving catch.
Hodge was called into the side while Ricky Ponting rested and he made sure the captain was not missed in the field, even if he was unable to match his performance with the bat. Strauss also fell to an outstanding effort from Hodge when he pulled McGrath. The ball lobbed in front of square leg, and Hodge leapt at full length to accept a stunning one-handed catch. Strauss posted a hard-working 18 after Loye's breathtaking start to his international career earned a run-a-ball 36.
Vaughan's hamstring tear provided a space in the squad for Loye, who was spending the off-season with Auckland in New Zealand, and it did not take him long to put his signature on the game. Dropping down on one knee to Lee, he produced an outrageous and stunning slog-sweep for a six behind square leg to jump to 11. The shot has been part of his repertoire since Twenty20 was invented, but it was a shock to see it against one of the game's fastest bowlers.