Traditionally, the Ashes victory has always been the highpoint of contests between Australia and England. When shorter versions of game didn’t exit, test series result was the lone benchmark of performance superiority between two of the earliest contenders in the game of cricket and the prestige of the two cricketing nations hinged on the Ashes series win. To a large extent, that tradition has still continued. England took the honors in the 2015 summer tour of Australia and the clock stopped after Australia’s humiliating defeat in the fourth Investec test at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. That also prompted Michael Clarke to retire from test cricket. Australia won the final test at the oval but that only helped them to cut down the deficit margin of their Ashes loss. In the ODI series that followed, the two sides were tied at 2-2 after the Headingley game and Sunday’s last fixture at Old Trafford, Manchester held the key. The Aussie bowlers reduced England to 138 all out in 33 overs and reached the required victory target in the 25th over to win the series by 8 wickets. Though the ODI-series win cannot compensate for their Ashes loss, the Australians could still have the little luxury of ending the tour on a cheerful note.
After Eoin Morgan won the toss, he elected to bat first probably with the idea of mounting a high score to pressurize the opposition later. That didn’t work with the opener Jason Roy falling in the first over and Alex Hales in the fourth. While Roy was trapped LBW as he missed Mitchell Starc’s 150 kph express delivery, angled on his pads, Hales had a torrid time as long as he lasted before Glenn Maxwell ended his comfiture by a second-attempt catch at point off John Hastings. England also lost James Taylor to totter at 22/3 in the sixth over to another good ball from Hastings but their worse moment came, when skipper Eoin Morgan had to retire hurt. That was a scary moment as a perfectly directed bouncer from Starc struck Morgan on his helmet even as he took his eyes of the ball and attempted to duck. Australian fielders crowded around the fallen down Morgan as the physio and the doctor gave the England captain a thorough look-in. But the batsman couldn’t continue. Though it was still 22/3, Morgan’s concussion wouldn’t allow him to resume and virtually four England wickets had gone. When Steven Smith introduced Mitchell Marsh, the slide was hastened. Marsh accounted for Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali and David Wiley. At 85/7 in the 20th over, England looked like wilting under 100 runs. However, a late strike from Adil Rashid, who scored 35 off 45 balls, took the hosts to 138 all out in 33 overs. Mitchell Marsh ended with impressive figures of 4/27 in his 6 overs.
The chase of 139 runs looked easy for Australia but they had a bad beginning as well. Opener Joe Burns survived 10 balls before edging a straight ball from Wiley to Mathew Wade. Burns couldn’t score any runs. Australia found it difficult to score in the early overs as the trio of David Wiley, Reece Topley and Mark Wood harried Finch and Steven Smith. The Australian captain consumed 28 balls for his 12 runs before he edged a delivery from Wood to the wicketkeeper. England had a glimmer of hope with Australia having only reached 31/2 in the tenth over. But after George Bailey joined Aaron Finch at the crease, things began to change. With all the time in the world, Finch and Bailey had no reason to hurry and become careless. After a slow start, the two batsmen got into their grooves and took Australia out of trouble. They were helped by Adil Rashid’s slower balls and both Finch and Bailey took turns to punish Rashid in different overs. Without taking any risks, the two seasoned Australians reached 140/2 in the 25th over. Australia won the tie by 8 wickets and clinched the ODI series 3-2.
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