As Twenty20 wins go, this was comprehensive. So comprehensive that Brad Hodge did not even get to bat in his first international for nearly six years. The Melbourne fans were disappointed at that, but pleased their other Victorian favourite, Cameron White, played a key part in Australia's pulverisation of England. White and George Bailey feasted on England's lacklustre bowling, cruising to the target of 131 in the 15th over with eight wickets in hand.
It meant a third series defeat for England on this tour. It also meant that that for the first time in a long while, Australia were ahead of England on the ICC rankings in all three formats; the teams swapped places after this result, with Australia moving up from eighth to sixth, and England falling from sixth to eighth. They will swap back again if England finish with a win in Sydney on Sunday, but the way they played in Melbourne that seems a distant dream.
Everything Australia did went right in this match, from sharp catches, run-outs and saves in the field to clean striking with the bat. By the time Bailey swept the winning boundary off James Tredwell to finish unbeaten on 60 from a remarkable 28 balls, with White at the other end on 57 from 45, the England players probably just wanted to go home. It was another especially miserable game for Jade Dernbach, whose three overs leaked 42 runs to take his series economy rate to 13.
Tim Bresnan was the only England bowler who looked like restricting Australia, his 1 for 11 from three overs including the lbw of Aaron Finch for 10. The only other wicket for the innings came when Glenn Maxwell, on 2, slogged a catch to deep square leg off Tredwell. But then White, who was fearsomely striking fours right from the start of the innings, was joined by Bailey for a 78-run stand that completed the job and kept Hodge in the rooms.
At least Hodge had featured strongly during the England innings, opening the bowling and being responsible for two dismissals through his excellent work in the field. To a man the Australians were inspired in the field and that sharpness, combined with four wickets to Man of the Match Josh Hazlewood, a highly encouraging return from injury for Mitchell Starc, and the maturity of legspinner James Muirhead restricted England to 9 for 130.
For a while it seemed England would not even reach that high a score; a 34-run partnership between Stuart Broad (18 not out) and Bresnan rescued them from 7 for 96 in the 16th over. Hazlewood finished with 4 for 30 after he took wickets with the last two balls of the innings, Bresnan bowled for 18 walking across his stumps and Tredwell bowled for a golden duck next delivery.
Six batsmen reached double figures but the highest score was Jos Buttler's 22 as none managed to capitalise on their starts, and not a six was hit during the innings. In many cases it was Australia's sharp fielding that caused England their problems and perhaps most surprisingly it was the 39-year-old Hodge who sparked things.
The most remarkable dismissal was that of Eoin Morgan, who was run out by a direct hit from Hodge despite the bat having been grounded in the crease before the stumps were broken. Joe Root's push to cover off the bowling of Maxwell was collected by Hodge and although his throw lacked some of the power he once had, it lost nothing in accuracy.
Morgan, who was on 6 at the time, dived full stretch in an attempt to make his ground at the wicketkeeper's end and his bat seemed to slide over the line before bouncing up and most of the bat was behind the crease but not grounded when the bails came off. The third umpire rightly ruled Morgan out; a reprieve after a batsman makes his ground then lifts off the ground only applies to the feet, not the bat.
Two overs later, another run out hurt England just as much when Root, who was established at the crease on 18, was caught short trying for a second run when Maxwell's speed allowed him to rocket the ball to the bowler White, who whipped off the bails. At 5 for 63, England were in trouble, but more was to follow when Ravi Bopara slogged the impressive young legspinner Muirhead to Maxwell at deep midwicket for 6.
None of England's batsmen managed to really find their rhythm and even Buttler, who struck two fours, was unable to bat on when he was lbw to an offcutter from Nathan Coulter-Nile in the 16th over. The batsman who looked most dangerous was the opener Michael Lumb, who picked up four boundaries during the first two overs of the match - the first over remarkably delivered by Hodge.
But on 18, Lumb skied a very high chance when he tried to clear long-on off Hazlewood and was caught by Coulter-Nile at mid-on. England's shaky start continued in the next over when Hodge's first piece of sharp fielding had its effect: Luke Wright was out for a second-ball duck when his searing drive off Starc was snapped up by Hodge at short cover.
The wickets just kept falling for England, when Alex Hales also made a start - 16 off 13 balls - and then top-edged a high, swirling catch to third man and was well taken by Starc. By that stage, Australia's fielding looked good. It only got better.