Whether excuses are looked for or not, or are used or not, England’s defeat of Australia in their one-off ODI as a part of the Champions Trophy has already been overdramatised by the English as a prelude to the coming Ashes battle in Australia this southern summer. The fact that England won handsomely on the back of the fast bowling of Wood and the leg spin of Rashid, and the power and timing of Morgan and Stokes is testament to their changing fortunes in the shorter form of the game and very little to do with what may happen in six months’ time. For now though, the English are ecstatic and adamant they are in the driver’s seat.
Australia had their chances to improve their standing in the match, and failed to do so whether it was from a lack of match activity or just poor shot selection. At 1/130 off 22 overs there seemed little to stop Australia from posting 300 as a total to chase. What followed was three shots of poor selection from Finch, Henriques and Smith, all when set and appearing in little trouble. Forced to rebuild rather than accelerate, the middle order was static, with Maxwell (20 off 31) and then Wade failing to live up to their so-called reputations as ‘finishers’ and instead falling meekly. Left with the tail, Travis Head finished on 71 not out off 64 balls, but probably left another dozen runs out there when declining long singles and possible twos at the finish. 9/277 off 50 overs didn’t look enough in the conditions, and was a disappointment after the start.
Starc and Hazlewood did what they do best, crashing through the English top order to have them 3/36 after 6 overs, when the rain came and halted their momentum. It proved to be crucial, as Morgan and Stokes combined for a partnership of 159 in 26 overs that broke the back of the run chase. When the rain returned to wash out the remainder of the game, England found themselves 40 runs in front on the Duckworth Lewis method and winners by a large margin.
For all of the excitement that the English have taken from this victory, they had everything in their favour. They have played ODI cricket in the lead up to the tournament on their home soil and are well prepared heading into the semi-finals. A loss for them would have been heartbreaking. While Australia will be disappointed with their finish and how they played, the rain cruelled their chances – had both matches that were washed out been played to their conclusion, Australia would have made the semi-finals on run rate. Such is the way of shortened tournaments.