Jos Buttler added to his burgeoning reputation as the man to close out an innings by ensuring that the NatWest Series went to deciding match as he guided England to a tense three-wicket victory in Cardiff
Jos Buttler added to his burgeoning reputation as the man to close out an innings by ensuring that the NatWest series went to the deciding match, as he guided England to a tense three-wicket victory with three balls to spare in Cardiff. On a surface where free-scoring was a rarity England struggled in their chase of 228, dented early on by Clint McKay's hat-trick, but just when the requirement was getting out of hand Buttler and Ben Stokes produced a strong argument as to why they have packed the batting order.
Buttler had earlier been given out lbw on 8 but was saved by the DRS when it showed the ball sliding down the leg side. When the seventh-wicket pair joined forces England still needed 84 off 68 balls but overs 39 to 43 brought 40 runs as the equation started to favour the home side. Buttler eased the tension further by drilling James Faulkner into the River Taff and then brought up his half-century from 41 balls.
However, when Stokes was bowled by McKay the job was not quite done for England, especially as James Tredwell struggled to get the ball away. Buttler scrambled a single to take the strike for the final over (a direct hit would have found him short) then settled the contest in a grand manner with a huge six over midwicket off Mitchell Johnson, followed, two balls later, by a fierce straight drive.
Although Buttler has shown his class on the international stage before, this is the first time he has completed a run chase for England in his brief career, so it was an important tick for the coach, Ashley Giles.
Stokes, while not as convincing, more than played his role in supporting Buttler as he continued in the No. 8 role earmarked for him since the match against Ireland. However, there were a couple of crucial moments Australia will look back on. When Stokes had 2, Aaron Finch could not hold into a tough chance at third man when he upper cut Johnson then, on 9, he was given not out to a huge appeal for a gloved hook which Hot Spot showed had made contact. Australia had burned their review much earlier against Eoin Morgan, when he was nowhere near edging it. Next ball, Stokes clipped Johnson for a boundary.
After less than three overs of the chase, England had an uphill task to level the series, despite Australia being held to 227. McKay, a key member of Australia's one-day bowling unit but someone who doesn't always get the acclaim, took the fifth hat-trick by an Australian in ODIs and the 33rd overall.
He began by trapping Kevin Pietersen lbw as he aimed to flick through the leg side then Jonathan Trott, who has struggled in the latter half of this season, edged a drive at a wide delivery to collect his second first-ball duck of the series. A similar stroke by Joe Root, although to a delivery closer to off stump, took a thinner edge low to Shane Watson at first slip.
Michael Carberry, whose ODI career has not had an easy start, watched it all from the non-striker's end but was soon in the firing line of Johnson as the left-armer crashed a searing short delivery into his gloves at 93.6mph - the ball looped in the air via the Carberry's shoulder but fell between three fielders. It was hard work for Carberry, as Australia's pacemen all maintained their accuracy but he did not allow the pressure to get to him; the presence of Eoin Morgan at the other end no doubt had a calming influence.
The pair added 104 in 28 overs to haul the innings back on track. Morgan was the more convincing, but Carberry started to branch out as the balls got softer and a couple of rasping square cuts - such a feature in his batting for Hampshire - stood out. He was, in fact, quicker to his fifty than Morgan, 83 deliveries compared to 91, but both departed in the space of four overs to turn the tables again.
Morgan, the ball after reaching his half-century, chopped on against Watson and then Carberry tried to pull a delivery that was too straight, handing Nathan Coulter-Nile his first ODI wicket. When Ravi Bopara, who was dropped on 0, a horrendous fluff by Matthew Wade, was lbw for a scratchy 7 it left Australia favourites but England's batting depth proved decisive.
It made Australia's late collapse even more costly. Their last five wickets fell for 18 after George Bailey had rescued the innings from 57 for 4, following impressive new-ball spells by Steven Finn and Boyd Rankin. Finn struck with the first legitimate ball of the match and Rankin produced his most impressive spell in an England as he worked over Michael Clarke. The Australia captain was rarely convincing although could consider himself unfortunate to be given lbw to Finn, the delivery shown by DRS to be just grazing the bails.
Bailey took advantage of short straight boundaries to attack Tredwell, as had been Australia's game plan at Old Trafford, and 35 runs out of his first 50 came against the offspinner. While he and Wade were adding 85 in 12 overs a total in excess of 250 was in sight but Tredwell recovered from his earlier treatment to take 3 for 5, while Rankin capped a testing 10 overs by finding Bailey's outside edge.