Australia finally rediscovered the winning touch as it beat England by 57 runs in their second NatWest Series ODI and even Andrew Symonds came to the party – this time on the pitch – with a typically belligerent knock of 73 off just 81 balls.
You sensed England half gave the game away even before it started when stand-in skipper Marcus Trescothick didn’t have the balls to bat first and set Australia a target. Ricky Ponting cheerfully admitted at the toss he would have batted but while 5 for 266 seemed a respectable total to defend, our top order is still looking very rusty – with Damien Martyn (68 not out) and Symonds covering with 142 runs in just 24 overs.
That England’s chase got to 209-9, bloated by Darren Gough’s fighting 46 not out, couldn’t disguise just how thoroughly its first three batsmen were brutally exposed by the pace and swing of the returning Brett Lee and partner Glenn McGrath who just keeps on bowling as tight as ever.
Trescothick, Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood were all at sea against the pair – and virtually shipwrecked at 3 for 6 – with Lee blasting out two of them and McGrath the other. While Andrew Flintoff (44) and Vikram Solanki (34) battled hard to keep up the run rate, once Brad Hogg dispatched both of them in short order to have England 5-94, not even Shane Warne’s social secretary Kevin Pietersen (19) could save England.
So with still plenty of room for improvement from our top order look for the resumption of normal transmission from the UK cricket press as England digests its first real taste of what lies ahead in the battle for the Ashes.