In an awe-inspiring performance, Australia inflicted a crushing defeat on England by an enviable margin of 8 wickets. Chasing an easy target of 177 runs the professional Aussie outfit achieved it in only 30 overs. England bowlers proved no match to the enterprising Australian pair of Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting who dictated terms throughout the game.
Hitting a glorious 80, Gilchrist made the England bowlers look like pygmies while Ricky Ponting with an unbeaten 70 in 71 balls set the Oval alight. With such a dominating performance, Australia proved its superiority over England, especially in the context of the forthcoming Ashes series.
Though of little import for the NatWest series, this match was equally important for the two sides. Australia not only wanted to maintain its unbeaten streak in ODI's against England but also wanted to get an edge over England looking forward to the Ashes. Equally, the hosts desperately required a win to break the humiliating string of 10 continuous defeats and to get some solace ahead of the Ashes.
Right from the start, Steve Waugh attacked and set a field with 4 slips and a gully to keep England under pressure. The strategy paid off when Glen McGrath bowled Marcus Trescothick with no runs on the board.
Alec Stewart and Nick Knight brought some stability by playing some thrilling shots raising the score to 51. Then Brett Lee struck, getting Stewart (22) caught by Bevan.
Owais Shah (1) and Ally Brown (1) found their way back to the pavilion in quick succession with England tottering at 59 for 4. While Nick Knight was defending one end against the Aussie onslaught, the other end remained vulnerable. Paul Collingwood (9) was the next to go reducing England to 81 for 5.
Just as Nick Knight departed after playing a defiant innings of 48, a procession started with Ben Hollioake (22) and Darren Gough (0) following on his heels and England was down to 119 for 8. The Australian bowlers had maintained a remarkable line to keep the batsmen under check.
In order to salvage whatever they possibly could, tail enders Robert Croft and Andy Caddick raised the score to a better looking 156 when Croft was out after scoring a valuable 20.
Facing Australia with courage, the last pair of Caddick and Mullally showed up their top order by adding runs gently raising the total to 176 when Andy Caddick trying a big hit was caught by Mathew Hayden for an entertaining 36.
England was all out for 176 in 43.2 overs, Brett Lee clinched 3 wickets while Glen McGrath and Neil Harvey shared 2 each. Playing under the shadow of constant defeats, the England batsmen gave a lacklustre performance.
Chasing an easy target of 177 runs, the Aussies were in a punishing mood from the word go. Scoring at an exciting rate of 8 runs per over they were 39 in only 5 overs when they lost Hayden (8).
Ricky Ponting joined Adam Gilchrist and went on a run spree, plundering quick runs and delighted the crowd by lifting Caddick over square leg for a mighty six in the 8th over. In the 15th, Ponting repeated the feat by hitting Caddick again for a six and hoisting Australia's 100.
These two, driving Australia relentlessly to the goal, completed their respective half centuries one after the other. Gilchrist in 52 balls with the help of 10 fours while Ponting did the same in only 45 balls, hitting 2 fabulous sixes and 6 fours. A little later came the 100 run partnership off 95 balls. With such enterprising cricket, the pair provided the spectators entertainment well worth their money.
Rushing fast to the 177 run target with a flurry of shots all round the wicket, they made England's bowling look absolutely ordinary. With 155 reached in the 24th over, Australia needed to score at the rate of less than one run per over. An awfully disappointing defeat stared England in the face.
Trying to hit along to victory a little too aggressively Adam Gilchrist gave away his wicket, caught and bowled Robert Croft after playing a splendid innings of 80 that included 14 fours. Australia had lost the 2nd wicket at 163, requiring only 14 runs to win.
The inevitable happened when Ricky Ponting drove Collingwood to long on for a single to achieve the victory in 30 overs with 8 wickets to spare.
Certainly, a moment of joy for Australia but an occasion for a depressed England team to conduct some soul searching for the future. Firstly, they could not prevent the 11th ODI defeat in a row and secondly, demoralising for them to enter the Ashes series with shattered morale, questionable prowess and a disappointing performance. One can expect the England think-tank will be working overtime to set things right for them.