If New Zealand outplayed Sri Lanka in winning by 98 runs at Hagley Park, Australia did the same thing at the MCG, when they scored a 111-run victory against England. Both host nations thus demonstrated the courage of their conviction in the CWC openers on the first day at historic venues in New Zealand and Australia. If the packed Hagley Park emotionally welcomed the big event, 85,000 fans cheered for the Wizards of Oz at Melbourne. In a great start for his team, Aussies opener Aaron Finch played 128 balls and refused to stop until the 37th over of the innings. Only an unfortunate run-out off a direct throw by Eoin Morgan could stop him. In between, Australia lost Warner, Watson and Steven Smith quite cheaply but Finch still had the support from skipper Bailey. After Finch’s departure, Bailey, Marsh, Maxwell and Haddin ensured that Australia ended their innings at an impressive score of 342 despite losing 3 wickets in last 3 balls of the innings to present a parting gift of a hat-trick to Steven Finn. When England came to bat, they had a huge mountain to climb at great speed. With Australian bowlers giving nothing away, just the solo effort from James Taylor was not enough. To his credit, Taylor stood bravely and scored 98 off 90 balls. But he helplessly watched England’s demise as one by one; his colleagues visited him at the crease, said hello Taylor and took his leave. After batting for almost 42 overs, England innings ended at 231 to lose by 111 runs. MCG erupted in joy as Australia made a winning start to their World Cup campaign.
Like Sri Lanka had chosen to field at Christchurch earlier in the day, England did the same at the MCG after winning the toss. Australia raced to 57 in the 8th over and then lost Warner and Watson off successive balls from Stuart Broad. In the 11th over, Chris Woakes accounted for Steven Smith and Eoin Morgan would have patted himself on the back for opting to field first. Earlier, Morgan saw Finch play nervously as an out-swinger from Anderson nearly took the edge of his bat and later when he flicked, Woakes misjudged a flier above his head. But England captain’s joy was short-lived as Finch blossomed into full bloom with passage of time. With George Bailey, Finch added 146 for fourth wicket and that partnership formed the backbone of Australian innings. Finch enjoyed the spell of spinner Joe Root, clubbed the bowler at will and reached his sixth ODI century off 102 balls. But this one proved far more valuable than his earlier five. England missed a chance to run out Finch, when the batsman was 123. Finally, it was a direct-throw run-out that ended Finch’s innings, when he had reached 135 off 128 balls with 12 fours and 3 sixes. After that Bailey fell for 55 as he played on to Steven Finn. But there was more help coming Australia’s way with Glenn Maxwell blasting 66 off 40, Marsh making 23 off 20 and Haddin complementing all that with a 14-ball 31. 342/9 at the end was too monumental for any team chasing victory in an ODI game and England were no exception.
Burdened by something insurmountable, England began slowly. Australia had a huge cushion but they didn’t relax. Instead, the two Mitchells, Starc and Marsh put the English batsmen under pressure and wickets started falling. By the 22nd over, 6 England batsmen had gone back to the pavilion. While the victory was already ruled out, reducing the margin of defeat was the least England could do. They had a lone ranger for this purpose. Standing amongst the dead, James Taylor held his gun and fought as much as he could do. But luck deserted England. When Taylor was 98, he tried to hit Josh Hazlewood on the legside and he was declared out lbw. On review, it transpired that the ball was missing the leg-stump. While Taylor escaped getting run-out, a scramble for a leg bye cost James Anderson’s wicket. Earlier, after Jos Buttler fell at 92, Taylor and Woakes added another 92 runs for the seventh wicket. But once Woakes got out, others followed him out of the ground. England could finally reach 231 all-out in the 42nd over and lost by 111 runs with James Taylor remaining not out on 98. England team’s current batting form looks like a reflection of Captain Morgan’s batting in the last five innings that reads 0, 2, 0, 0 and 0. He faced six balls before another duck was credited against him. While the batsmen disappointed, England’s bowling and fielding was no better. They need to seriously examine all these facets before going to Wellington for their second game against New Zealand on February 20, 2015.
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