Australia take lead in NatWest Series with last-over win over England

Captain Steve Waugh and Ian Harvey kept their cool to guide Australia to a five-wicket success over England in an exciting NatWest Series match at Bristol.

Set 269 to win, the pair put on an unbroken 39 for the fifth wicket to ensure victory with three balls remaining after Ricky Ponting's 102 had laid the foundation.

The decisive blow came from Harvey, who sent the last ball of the 49th over from Ben Hollioake towering over extra cover for six. That took the requirement down to five off the last over, bowled by Mark Ealham, and a boundary and a single from Waugh wrapped up victory.

It was a compelling encounter for the 15,000 who had packed into the County Ground for the first English Cricket International to be played in the West Country.

England captain Alec Stewart won the toss and was pleased with his side's batting display.

The innings was given a great platform by Marcus Trescothick and Nick Knight, who brushed aside the early loss of Alistair Brown, to put on 124 for the second wicket, 23 overs.

Trescothick, who grew up in Bristol, continued his excellent form this season with seven fours and two sixes in his 69 before he was run out by Shane Warne's throw from mid-wicket.

Knight, who also hit seven fours and two sixes, departed for 84 after Warne held a superb diving catch at mid-wicket off Brett Lee.

England failed to hit a boundary between the 30th and 40th overs and were in danger of dipping below 250 until Hollioake and debutante Owais Shah, two of England's younger generation, cracked 70 off seven overs at the finish.

Hollioake, with batting that was reminiscent of the 63 made on his debut against Australia at Lord's four years ago, finished with 27 not out from 26 balls, while Shah made 28 from 24 deliveries.

Australia's attack, handicapped by the absence through injury of pacemen Damien Fleming and Jason Gillespie, struggled for consistency. Mark Waugh bowled eight tidy over of spin for 27, but Lee and Harvey both went for over 50 runs in their ten-over spells.

Australia lost Adam Gilchrist, caught at mid-wicket off Darren Gough, in the fifth over of their reply, but Mark Waugh and Ricky Ponting rectified things with a second-wicket partnership of 89 in 18 overs.

Waugh was bowled off his pads by Dominic Cork for 46, but Ponting continued to bat beautifully with shots to all areas.

The Tasmanian reached his eighth limited overs century - and his first against England - from 113 balls, with nine fours and two sixes.

Damien Martyn gave great support with 46 in a stand of 97, but when both departed in quick succession the game was back in the balance. Martyn had his off-stump knocked back by Alan Mullally and then Ponting, sent back by Andrew Symonds, was run-out by Mullally's throw to Stewart from the bowler's end.

Symonds was bowled by Gough for 23, but Steve Waugh and Harvey then combined for the match-winning partnership that broke English hearts.

But England captain, Alec Stewart, took lots of encouragement from the game, particularly the batting of Shah and Hollioake: "They batted well and it bodes well for the future. It shows what you can do it if you compete," he reasoned. "We didn't compete against Pakistan.

"There are a lot of positives coming out of today. As David Graveney has said, we are planning for the World Cup."

Rival captain, Steve Waugh, credited the pitch for a fine game: "It was a good pitch, probably a little quicker than we thought it was going to be and 270 runs from either side is a pretty good day's entertainment," he said. "It was an excellent day of one-day cricket. Both sides played some great cricket and we were probably fortunate in the end to get out of it. England played very well. You have got to give them credit."

Waugh was obviously delighted with the win that takes Australia to the top of the NatWest table: "It's been a real good start. I have been pleased in the way that we have chased totals. It is never easy to chase a big total. We kept our calm and the tempo going and it's been very positive so far."