England and Australia were locking horns for the first time this summer and Edgbaston, basking in golden sunshine for its 100th international match, was able to celebrate the start of the sequence with an emphatic England victory
England and Australia locked horns for the first time this summer and Edgbaston, basking in golden sunshine for its 100th international match, was able to celebrate the start of the sequence with an emphatic England victory. The Champions Trophy tie - or Ashes prelim, if you prefer - fell to England by 48 runs.
Until England took control, it was a cagey, tactical affair - for the neutral perhaps the least enthralling match in the tournament so far. But who knows, it might be that England have already made an impact on the Ashes summer.
Australia had imagined that a powerful statement in the Champions Trophy might be a catalyst, but their performance was limp, their captain Michael Clarke is injured, and their hold on the Champions Trophy - as ESPNcricinfo's ball-by-ball commentary put it "the last trinket on Australia's mantelpiece" - is now in danger of falling into the fireplace.
For much of the day the Edgbaston crowd was able to soak up the pleasurable sight of two of its own proceeding calmly along, although it was only when victory was achieved that confidence reigned that Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott, as two Warwickshire batsmen should, had perfectly assessed batting requirements.
When Trott was caught at the wicket for 43 from 56 balls, chasing a wide one delivered around the wicket by the left-armer, Mitchell Starc, England's second-wicket pair had put on 111 in 22 overs and uncertainty hung around the ground about whether their programmed approach, on a day when Alastair Cook's decision to bat first was a straightforward one, would yield the desired outcome.
Bell departed four overs later, his 91 occupying 115 balls, as James Faulkner bowled him with a straight ball which kept a little low, a fact the batsman communicated somewhat theatrically by falling to his knees after his stumps were broken. He has seemed slightly out of sorts in recent months, but this proved to be a match-winning innings of consummate judgment.
Bell's contribution was neat and discerning, studded by occasionally pleasing drives, Trott occupied himself diligently in that self-absorbed way of his, his innings containing a solitary boundary.
He was shaken out of his cocoon of contentment only once when he seemed entirely taken aback to find Australia's keeper, Matthew Wade, raging at him after the pair got in a tangle as Wade chased an inaccurate return. A few minutes later, having contemplated the mix up, he allowed himself a slightly disturbing smile.
England's plan was to take advantage of the last 15 overs, beginning with the batting Powerplay. But batting Powerplays are not often to England's tastes. It is as if they are contrary to the national character, resented for artificially intruding on the normal order of things, about as popular as a wind turbine in a Cotswold village, both having the potential to bring energy but often bringing resentment.
Instead, they stalled. The late-order marauders, Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler, fell cheaply within three balls of each other and it took a judicious 46 not out from 37 balls from Ravi Bopara to heal the breach. The average score at Edgbaston in ODIs was 224 but as the sun
blazed down, this was not an average batting day.
Things might have turned out differently if Bell had been run-out without scoring. When Cook played Starc to backward point, David Warner pulled off a diving stop and sprung to his feet to throw down the stumps, with both batsmen at the wicketkeeper's end. Cook was just in his ground and Bell was a yard alongside him, but the ball careered into the leg side and, much kerfuffle later, England had stolen two overthrows.
Australia's bowling attack sorely lacked a specialist spinner on such a gripping surface and, among the pace bowlers, Mitchell Starc was a disappointment.
Then with the bat they never got going. David Warner and Shane Watson constitute as destructive an opening pair as exists in one-day cricket, but there was barely a whimper from either as they fell by the 15th over with the scoring rate barely three runs an over.
Warner's feet were fast as he carved at a ball angled across him from Stuart Broad and presented a diving catch to Buttler. Broad almost removed Watson, too, as a leading edge flew beyond Cook's grasp, diving to his left at slip. But Watson soon fell, his inside edge caught by Cook at gully, after the ball arced gently off the pad.
The balance of England's side gave Australia a chance with fifth-bowling duties to be shared between Ravi Bopara and the callow offspin of Joe Root, the latter with only one ODI wicket to his name. But this was a somewhat abrasive pitch which aided their chances of survival release and Hughes, losing patience, tried to pull Root off a length and was lbw.
The wicket which as good as confirmed England's victory - Mitchell Marsh rattling one into Eoin Morgan's midriff at backward point - also took James Anderson past Darren Gough as England's leading wicket-taker in ODIs. Five balls later, Matthew Wade followed, albeit reluctantly, initially hoping that Hot Spot would not reveal his thin edge, then plotting an escape because the ball might have dropped short of Buttler's gloves, but umpire Dharmasena's decision was upheld.
Bailey's half-century tried to hold Australia together, but he was wading through sand and his desperate attempt to go big against James Tredwell's offspin caused his downfall at long-on.
No Finn, no Swann. It was easy to believe that England were deliberately keeping two of their most potent bowlers out of sight of the Australians ahead of the Investec Ashes series.
England insisted that it was not the case. But they would, wouldn't they?
Swann had a none-too-serious sore back which had not prevented him bowling in the nets; Finn was omitted purely for reasons of form, perhaps influenced by the fact that now he is back on his long run, and comfortable with it, and the last thing England need is any long run, short run confusion ahead of the Ashes. Tim Bresnan's ability to draw life from the dry surface, most marked when he cut one back to bowl Adam Voges, justified the choice.
The Champions Trophy is a valid tournament in itself, not just some sort of Ashes points-scoring contest. That said, when Australia began their minimum of 13 meetings against England this summer with a gentle leg-stump half volley from Starc, which Cook flipped through backward square for four.
The roars of approval from the Eric Hollies Stand possessed a significance that England supporters hoped would last all summer long. By the end of the day they were even more convinced that it would.