ODI Tri Series: Maxwell magic delivers title for Australia

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February 1, 2015

Brief Scorecard: Australia 8 for 278 (Maxwell 95, Marsh 60, Faulkner 50*) beat England 166 (Bopara 33, Maxwell 4-46) by 112 runs

Victorious Australian Team

February 1, 2015

Brief Scorecard: Australia 8 for 278 (Maxwell 95, Marsh 60, Faulkner 50*) beat England 166 (Bopara 33, Maxwell 4-46) by 112 runs

Victorious Australian Team

BRISBANE, AUSTRALIA: The day began cold and dark and slightly damp, a mild drizzle accompanying the players to the WACA. By mid-afternoon, the clouds had been swept away by a billowing wind and a harsh sun, the ground bathed in glorious scorching light.

The changing weather pattern on Sunday (February 1) was perfectly reflective of Australia’s fortunes in the final of the triangular series against England, who began competitively but then buckled under the might of the opposition onslaught. Visions of a rare English win over the old enemy began to take shape when Australia, put in by Eoin Morgan, subsided to 60 for 4, midway through the 18th over.

On a pitch of slightly dubious character to start with – as the day progressed, it began to play increasingly truer – Australia needed to show character of their own to clamber out of a deep hole, especially given that Steve Smith, their hero all summer, had perished too after a wonderful 40. Fear not, said Glenn Maxwell, choosing the most opportune moment to return to run-scoring ways.

Fear not, too, said Mitchell Marsh, in his first hit since the Brisbane Test against India ended on December 20. The pair put on a WACA record 141 in 140 balls to emphatically wrest the initiative, and James Faulkner then sauntered in to club Chris Woakes and England into submission with a plethora of fours and sixes that netted him an unbeaten, 24-ball 50.

The sum result of all this was that Australia piled up 132 in the final 15 overs, and ended their innings on a huge 278 for 8. Imposing in itself, massive in a cup final, match-winning given the bowling resources at the disposal of George Bailey, who had done his World Cup prospects no good at all with a 17-ball 2.

Glenn Maxwell plays the reverse paddle-sweep

One of those resources Bailey could summon for the first time in the competition answered to the name of Mitchell Johnson. Refreshed after a month away tending to a hamstring injury, Johnson cranked up the pace and provided the X-factor that even Australia, mighty Australia, formidable Australia, are thankful for. Johnson came on first change in the seventh over; by the time he was taken off, he had figures of 4-1-14-3. James Taylor, caught expertly at backward point by Maxwell. Moeen Ali, held at slip off a snorter. Morgan, clean bowled first ball. All in the space of 10 deliveries. Game over, see you later.

There were brief flickers, all too brief, from Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Stuart Broad, but England were never in with a shout, not with Maxwell (4 for 46) ending up with career-best ODI bowling figures too. In the end, all they managed was 166, Australia crowning their unbeaten run in the competition with the most one-sided of victories, by 112 runs.

For all that, Ian Bell started as fluently as ever, with two fours in Mitchell Starc’s first over, and Moeen joined in the fun in his most assured innings of the tournament. England had moved untroubled to 18 when Josh Hazlewood produced a beauty that shaped in and straightened to catch Bell’s edge. Brad Haddin went flying to his right to pouch a sensational catch, setting the stage for an exceptional performance in the field.

England were never in the hunt as wickets fell in clutches. Taylor’s ambitious drive skewed off the outside edge while Johnson once again exposed Mooen’s fallibility against the short ball, then used the full ball to winkle out Morgan as England lost 3 for 11 in 22 deliveries and found themselves at 46 for 4. Maxwell then joined in the wicket-taking fun too, accounting for Buttler to a very good catch by Pat Cummins, the substitute, at short third-man off a reverse sweep and ending a miserable outing for Woakes by having him caught and bowled first ball.

Mitchell Johnson sets off on a celebratory run

The only blip for Australia was Faulkner leaving the field halfway through his third over with what appeared to be a side strain. Otherwise, it was a thoroughly professional, occasionally scary performance that other World Cup contenders would do well to take note of. If they hadn’t already before Sunday, that is.

Australia didn’t exactly begin the day like favorites, losing their way once James Anderson, the swing master, evicted Aaron Finch with the third delivery of the game, a beautiful late away-going ball finding the outside edge on its way to first slip. David Warner’s aggressive designs came second best against a delivery that took off from a length and flew to point off the splice.

Even by then, Smith had stamped his class; walking around his crease, he took balls from outside off and picked them off through mid-wicket and behind square, seemingly having a relaxed net while all hell was breaking loose at the other end. Bailey, desperately needing runs, was given a torrid time by Anderson and Broad, finally bowling at somewhere near his best. Bailey’s only scoring shot came off the 16th delivery faced; the 17th, from Broad, took him completely by surprise, his face turned away from the ball and eyes looking in the direction of point, the bat held up in protection. Short-leg couldn’t have asked for an easier catch.

Smith’s dismissal came as a huge surprise as he walked down the track to Moeen – once again outstanding as he went for less than four an over – and past the ball. Buttler fumbled but by the time Smith realized he was in with a chance, had recovered enough to whip the bails off.

England must have believed they were in with a great chance. Maxwell and Marsh believed otherwise. Maxwell has never been a great respector of situations. He came into this innings on the back of seven single-digit scores and three ducks in his last 15 innings. In Hobart last week, he had thrown away a start by playing a horrendous slog-sweep, all of which had contributed to the guns being trained on him.

He responded in inimitable fashion, teeing off with twin boundaries off consecutive Steven Finn overs even as he batted with a restraint that is all too alien to him. There were no cute reverses, no fancy ramps, no cheekiness or unorthodoxy. He scored briskly playing normal cricket while Marsh was content to bide his time as he bedded in on his home ground.

In the course of 15 untroubled overs, Maxwell and Marsh restored the balance. They then cut loose during the Batting Power Play, Marsh coming into his own even as Maxwell decided enough was enough, it was time to put the correctness away and bring on the brutal. Almost every bowler travelled, including Anderson, but no one more so than Woakes. Marsh began the carnage with a contemptuous pull that screamed over long-leg, and Maxwell then took over with four fours in the final over of the Power Play, including one outrageous reverse pull that nearly cleared the third-man fence.

The only way this alliance could have been terminated was through an unforced error, and Maxwell duly obliged as he charged Broad and put up a skier to be dismissed in the 90s for the third time in ODIs. Marsh fell not long thereafter, called through for an impossible second run by Haddin who then himself holed out to mid-wicket. Australia seemed to be squandering the advantage earned in such breathtaking style by M&M when Faulkner decided to step in.

Faulkner has earned the reputation of a finisher in a chase. He showed he can finish an innings batting first too in some style. Woakes was hammered over mid-wicket twice, and flat-batted over long-on in a final over that went for 24. In all, Woakes conceded 89 in 10. It was all but over, and then, Johnson made sure there were no comebacks for England.


Courtesy: Wisden India