Captain SmithAt the Bellerive oval in Hobart, England faced Australia for the second time in the ongoing Carlton Mid Tri-Series. Steven Smith played under Bailey in the first three ODIs of the Carlton Mid Tri-Series. In taking over in the 4th match from George Bailey, who is serving a suspension for poor over-rate in the match against India last Sunday, Smith led Australia for the first time in an ODI format. His performance since he donned the mantle of captaincy has been exemplary. In three test matches against India, Smith came up with hundreds in every match. The format now was different and so were the team compositions. On Friday, as he came back again as captain, Smith did not disappoint. Chasing a 300+ score against England in the 4th game, Smith scored another century and its value was worth its weight in gold. Smith had joined Shaun Marsh in the 11th over after Aaron Finch was bowled by Moeen Ali. The captain didn’t get out and saw his colleague score the winning run off the penultimate delivery of the match. He ensured that Australia entered the final of the Carlton Mid Tri-series regardless of the result of their next game against India in two days’ time. With no win so far, India is the worst placed team in the tri-series as they will have to beat both Australia and England in their remaining games to enter the final. For England, India’s repeat loss against Australia would be enough to take them to the final. If not, they can themselves beat India in their last match of the tri-series.

After winning the toss, Steven Smith asked England to bat first. The English openers were equal to task as they put up a 113 run opening stand. After a mercurial innings, Moeen Ali got out in the 18th over in attempting an aerial shot off Faulkner. Instead, he only succeeded in scooping the ball to the short cover area, where substitute fielder Xavier Doherty held a well-judged catch. But England continued to build the innings even after they lost James Taylor in the 23rd over. The third wicket stand between Ian Bell and Joe Root was worth 121 runs and England were comfortably placed at 253/3, when Bell got out for a superb 141 scored off 125 balls with 15 fours and 11 sixes.  Root went on until the scoreboard read 275/4 in the 45th over. Captain Eoin Morgan went for a duck and the last four wickets fell in a heap for the addition of just 28 runs. Regardless, England posted a very challenging 303/8.

When Australia came on to chase 304, Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh opened in the innings as David Warner was absent from the squad. The openers did well to pile up 76 for the first wicket. Steven Smith came at the fall of Finch’s wicket but he saw the backs of Shaun Marsh and Cameron white at the same score of 92. But Glenn Maxwell was good company for the stand-in captain and the two added 69 for the fourth wicket. After Maxwell’s departure, Smith had James Falkner giving him company. One more useful stand for 55 runs meant Australia going to 216/5 as Faulkner departed. In came Brad Haddin and in the next 10 overs, Smith and Haddin brought Australia at the threshold of victory. Australians were in great position at 295/5 after 47 overs, requiring just 9 runs from the remaining 18 balls.

Suddenly, things began to worsen for Australia as Haddin got out in the 48th over. Smith took a single off the fourth delivery and Moises Henriques ran for another off the last ball. With Henriques on strike in the 49th over and Australia needing 5 off 12, it was still Australia’s game. But Henriques played four dot-balls to create insurmountable tension in the Australian dressing rooms. In between, a couple was scored off the fourth ball and when they took a single off the last ball, Henriques came back to face the last six deliveries from Chris Woakes. With two runs needed, England didn’t allow Henriques to penetrate the field as Smith watched helplessly from the other end. Of the third ball of the 50th over, Henriques attempted a suicidal single and Taylor’s direct throw broke the stumps at the bowlers end with Henriques miles away. It is debatable whether Henriques’ run out was a boon for Australia or not, but that brought Smith to the batting end. The captain didn’t hesiatate to run for a single because that brought the scores level with two balls left. New man Mitchell Starc took a single of the fifth delivery and Australia won by 3 wickets with one ball left.