As the night skies closed in around Old Trafford, so too did the Australians. Intimidating field placings more akin to Test cricket greeted new England batsmen, an umbrella slip cordon and a couple of short legs ensuring that Australia applied a vice-like tourniquet which squeezed the life out of the England reply, reducing the game to an exhibition of Australia's supreme bowling attack. England were totally eclipsed by 125 runs and dismissed for a record low of 86 all out.
England had set out in pursuit of a revised target of 212 from 44 overs after rain had curtailed Australia's total to 208 for seven from 48 overs. An immediate goal was to achieve 84 without loss from the mandatory 25 overs to win the match as the threat of rain was always a possibility. As it turned out, to merely survive for 25 overs was probably England's main batting achievement in an innings which only displayed the true calibre of this Australian outfit.
Glenn McGrath and Jason Gillespie were unmercifully persistent and accuracy personified. Knight and Trescothick could barely pierce the field and the pressure of these two quicks caused anxious times for the two left-handers. They did reach 25 without loss but after Knight had groped forward and edged McGrath behind, Stewart and Vaughan departed off consecutive balls to the hostile Gillespie. Shah avoided the hat-trick and had made a very fortuitous ten before edging Gillespie on to his pad to Ponting.
Three wickets went down in 20 balls for no runs. Trescothick was cleaned up by McGrath and Shane Warne made his appearance at his beloved Old Trafford to taunt the England lower order and turn the ball past the startled Hollioake. Andrew Symonds, meanwhile, joined in the fun, inducing Cork to find Hayden at deep mid-wicket off a rank long hop, and then plunging to his right to snap up Collingwood one-handed. Gough succumbed to Warne and Ian Harvey performed the last rites with the wicket of Mullally.
If this was an Ashes rehearsal, then England's recent renewed confidence after Test series successes looks misplaced. Australia were just simply too good. Their batsmen, thanks to Steve Waugh and Damien Martyn, rescued a poor position of 27 for three and although England, and in particular Hollioake and Mullally, bowled well and ensured Australia didn't set a huge target, it was quickly evident that Australia's standard is still way above that of England in one-day cricket.