Only a shoulder injury to Shane Warne cast a shadow over Australia's 89-run victory in the second one-day international in the VB Series in Melbourne as the home side rattled up their highest ever total against England. Against an inexperienced attack, in which James Anderson was preferred to Andrew Caddick, Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist were savage in their approach. Both helped themselves to big hundreds as they put on a record partnership for their country of 225 from 206 balls as Australia reached 318 for six in their 50 overs. Nick Knight apart, there was little significant resistance from the England batsmen as they were bowled out - and run out - for 229.
Anderson had only played three one-day matches for Lancashire, but was pitched in to bolster England's flagging fortunes. However, it was James Kirtley who gave England an early boost by dismissing the prolific Matthew Hayden in the third over with the help of a low catch in the covers by Gareth Batty.
That was the end of England's joy for another 35 overs as Gilchrist and Ponting systematically destroyed the attack. The pair traded stroke for stroke and boundary for boundary in a superb display of one-day batting. Between them they reached the rope 21 times and went over it on another nine occasions. If the pitch was good, the batting was even better.
Ponting was first to fifty, Gilchrist first to three figures but it was of little consequence as they were quickly building a total that sapped what was left of England's confidence. Ponting did give a chance on 89 when Nick Knight failed to hold on to a chance above his head at mid-on when Ponting clipped Batty off his legs.
It was only when Anderson came back for a second spell that the stand was broken. Gilchrist chopped his first ball onto his stumps and he was out for 124 from 104 balls. This wicket heralded a collapse in which five wickets fell in eight overs for the addition of 46 runs.
Batty bowled Michael Bevan for just three and his spin partner, Ian Blackwell, picked up the wicket of Ponting for 119 as he found Owais Shah in the deep. Craig White needed Batty's help to get rid of Damien Martyn in the next over, before White returned the compliment to Blackwell to account for Shane Watson.
Darren Lehmann with 18 from 19 balls and Warne with 19 from 15 ensured that the final overs were not wasted and in the course of them Warne recorded his 1,000th run in one-day internationals.
England could claim that their bowling performance was improved on what was seen at Sydney in the first match of the series, even if the final analyses do not show any reward.
England's reply got off to a dreadful start, there was a brief rally while Knight and Nasser Hussain were together, and then it simply fell apart.
Marcus Trescothick was first to go, caught by a diving Hayden in the gully off Jason Gillespie to make it 13 for one in the fourth over. Six balls later, Ronnie Irani went for a second consecutive nought. He was slow returning to the non-striker's end as Watson turned and threw and although Glenn McGrath fumbled the take, the third umpire was confident that the wicket had been broken legally and England were 16 for two.
Knight was continuing in the form of Sydney, if anything striking the ball even cleaner this time, crashing McGrath for three consecutive boundaries in the ninth over. He found a resilient partner in Hussain as the pair rattled up a fifty partnership from 43 balls. Knight was the dominant figure of the pair as they set about restructuring the innings.
The stand came to an end when Warne came into the attack. They had taken the total up to 76 when Hussain attempted to sweep the leg-spinner and somehow managed to drag the ball down onto his stumps. Hussain remained kneeling in the crease like St. George giving thanks after slaying the dragon. This time it was the Australian breathing fire and England's captain was slain for 19.
Shah found the task beyond his composure as he attempted to lift only the tenth ball he faced over long on to be caught by McGrath high above his head running back at long-off. Alec Stewart followed two overs later - chancing his luck with a single straight to Bevan at mid-on. Bevan swooped and hit the stumps with a one-handed pick-up and throw.
Blackwell could have followed the others to the changing room when he appeared to edge Warne to Gilchrist, but umpire Steve Bucknor turned down the confident appeal and the burly left-hander stayed to add his weight to a partnership with the still fluent Knight and adding to Warne's displeasure by thumping him for a couple of sixes.
Knight's innings came to a rather tame end when he chipped a slower ball from Watson straight up into the air to Warne at mid-wicket. He had scored 70 from 68 balls in what was virtually a one-man performance.
White, the new man in the middle, inadvertently removed Warne from the attack and from the field. He played a ball from the leg-spinner towards mid-on and the bowler landed awkwardly on his right shoulder as he dived across to intercept it. Warne immediately clutched his bowling shoulder and grimaced with obvious pain before being carried off on a stretcher. The initial diagnosis was that his shoulder had popped out, but that it popped back cleanly and so should not have the long-term effects that were feared at first.
White, who played on the MCG as a Victorian before claiming his Yorkshire birthright, batted with assurance in partnership with Blackwell. While the match result might have been beyond reasonable doubt, the target of 255 to decide the bonus point was a possibility.
Even that limited ambition for England became unlikely as Blackwell became the third batsman to be run out. Going for the reverse sweep against Lehmann, he dwelt in the crease for an lbw decision to be determined. Gilchrist, behind the stumps, did not. He raced out to pick up and threw down the stumps at the bowler's end with Blackwell nowhere.
Batty managed to play on with an outside edge off Lehmann, which says something about the type of shot he was trying to play, Anderson was bowled by a 90 mph yorker from Brett Lee and Kirtley could not keep out another fast, straight one from Lee.
White remained unbeaten on 57 - his first one-day international fifty - but the question to be answered now is whether England can come back from a succession of crushing defeats to get a win in their next match as Sri Lanka enter the lists. The Australians, in their vernacular, have no worries and can simply sit back to await their opponents in the finals.