Michael Clarke has remained in England after a dispiriting Ashes series to seek some one-day solace and, at the start of the NatWest series, Old Trafford provided it in abundance. A graceful first hundred against England in one-day internationals was followed by an overwhelming victory. For Australia's captain, it was a rare visit this summer to the pleasure palace.
England's pursuit of 316 for victory was a non-event, their defeat every bit as comprehensive as the 88-run margin indicates. They had never chased down such a total in ODIs, their best effort being 306 for 5 against Pakistan in Karachi 13 years ago. They had also never conceded such a large total to Australia in an ODI in England. They were not about to challenge such statistics.
The balance of England's side was weighted towards an extra batsman, a shift in policy from a Champions Trophy campaign earlier this summer in which they were beaten finalists, and the captain, Eoin Morgan, time and again found himself playing a limited hand in the field, never more so than when Clarke and George Bailey were compiling a fourth-wicket stand of 155 in 22 overs.
Clarke measured up the England attack serenely for his 105 from 102 balls before Boyd Rankin, England's biggest threat, had him caught at the wicket 22 balls from the end of the innings. Bailey, untroubled while making 82 from 67 balls, smiled upon England even as he punished them, as if influenced by some minor religious sect which instructs him forever to spread happiness.
England had a sally firstly through Kevin Pietersen, who made 60 from 66 balls before he drove Shane Watson to cover, and later Jos Buttler, who had the rare luxury of more than half the innings to bat and took advantage of more time at the crease with a maiden ODI fifty. He made 75 from 65 balls but became the sole victim of Fawad Ahmed, whose legspin will have more successful days.
The English summer is departing, and the house martins are taking flight, but Australia are still here, seeking to ease memories of their 3-0 defeat in the Test series. That England, influenced by a 10.15am start, inserted them on a benign, grassless pitch, correctly assessed at the toss by Clarke as a "fantastic" batting surface, provided a helping hand. England, 1-0 down with three to play (the first match at Headingley was washed out), must surely re-examine their strategy.
Morgan was in no mood to contemplate error. "We've a very strong batting line-up," he said afterwards, adding that England's bowling attack had "lots of options". But the satisfaction - and the Man-of-the-Match award was Clarke's. "We're here to win the series and we are off to a good start," he said.
Rankin, who is making a good impression at the start of his England career, escaped with 2 for 49 and Ravi Bopara was the most resourceful of England's back-up bowlers, allowing only 32 from his first eight overs, even if he could not quite complete the job. Bopara might have escaped unscathed, however, if Bailey had been caught at deep miswicket when 69, but the ball evaded Stokes, who was in from the boundary; the next ball cleared the rope by a distance.
It was an inconvenient time for James Tredwell to have one of his most unrewarding days in an England shirt - he conceded 37 from his first 22 balls and eventually 60 from eight overs as Australia attacked him from the outset. It was a tough examination, too, for Ben Stokes, the Durham allrounder batting at No. 8, who struggled to fill the role of third seamer on such a surface.
Australia's opening alliance, Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh, had put on a record partnership against Scotland but produced naught in Manchester, as Marsh poked unconvincingly at a full delivery, the fourth ball of the match, and edged to the wicketkeeper Buttler.
Watson's emotional struggles with DRS could be turned into soap opera. Twice within 13 overs, the umpire Richard Kettleborough had to reverse decisions, with Watson the batsman involved on both occasions. Both were difficult calls for the third umpire, Aleem Dar, and he probably got it right on both occasions.
Watson successfully reviewed after he was given out lbw first ball by Kettleborough. Then, on 38, it was England's turn to overturn Kettleborough's decision, as Bopara had Watson caught at the wicket cutting. Not for the first time this summer, Watson departed with the hurt, pursed-lips expression of an elderly woman imagining herself short-changed at the till.
When Tredwell intervened with the wicket of Finch - a flat catch to Joe Root at long-on - England accepted the third wicket with considerable relief. For a few overs they hinted at a recovery, but soon Clarke and Bailey were killing them with kindness.
There was encouragement for Australia in the field, too: Mitchell Johnson is approaching his best form again. Australia omitted him for this summer's Ashes series but, after observing his new-ball spell, they must have had visions that their most mercurial bowling talent can make an impression in the return Test series. Johnson's rhythm was good, his bowling arm much higher than in recent years and his pace repeatedly above 90mph.
He struck twice in his second over. His first wicket had an element of good fortune as Michael Carberry slapped a catch to Clarke at backward point. But Jonathan Trott's first-baller came via a fiercely rising delivery on a perfect line that he could only fend to the wicketkeeper. Root followed immediately after the Powerplay, trying to run a ball from James Faulkner that sneaked back into him.
Pietersen and Morgan met a mammoth task with invention, enough to see Ahmed withdrawn from the attack after his first two overs cost 23.
But Pietersen's departure was a reality check for a crowd of 25,000. Bopara chipped a return catch to Adam Voges, Morgan succumbed to Clint McKay's slower ball, Stokes made a mess of a pull shot to complete a dismal day and, by the time Buttler brought up his half-century by striking Faulkner's slower ball over square leg for six, the game had long gone.