JUNE 25, 2018
Brief Scorecard: England 208 for 9 (Buttler 110*, Stanlake 3-35, K Richardson 3-51) beat Australia 205 (Head 56, Moeen 4-46)
Moeen Ali claimed two wickets in his opening over Getty Images
Jos Buttler gave Australia one last nightmare to take home from an abject ODI tour of England as the hosts squeaked to a victory that gave them a first-ever 5-0 sweep of a series between the two nations. Befitting the confidence gulf between the teams, Australia made the best possible start to both innings and squandered their advantage each time. England made the worst possible start in both innings and found a way to win.
That they did so was largely due to Buttler, in the first innings of his ODI career to traverse more than 100 balls. Billy Stanlake’s pace and hostility had reduced England to 50 for 5 in pursuit of 206 and they were no further than 114 at the fall of the eighth wicket. But so brilliantly did Buttler modulate the chase and so ably did Adil Rashid support him in a stand of 81 that a top edge for England’s No. 10 and a fine catch by Stanlake came as something of a surprise.
Eleven runs were left for Buttler to compile in the company of the last man Jake Ball. First ball after Rashid’s exit, Buttler coshed Marcus Stoinis down the ground for a six and his century. Ball then played out a nervous maiden from Ashton Agar, earning a hearty cheer from the Old Trafford spectators. Buttler and Ball then eked out three singles from Kane Richardson, before England’s gloveman brought the series to a close by punching Stoinis through the covers.
It had not, in all fairness, been an Australian batting performance to merit a win. Numerous batsmen made questionable shotmaking choices, their play against spin was unimproved, and Travis Head continued to make an art-form of squandering sound starts. Given how well Stanlake was to bowl, the top order must have wondered about what difference even another 50 runs might have made.
Stanlake received more than useful support from Agar – who took the new ball – and Richardson, while Nathan Lyon was also able to keep things tight with the ball. Their contributions took the Australians to the brink of their first international win since the Newlands ball tampering scandal, but not close enough to ward off the irrepressible Buttler.
A closer finish was at the very least some faint cause for optimism after a tour that had been more broadly characterised by a domineering England and an increasingly furrowed brow on the face of the touring coach Justin Langer. He will remain frustrated by the profligacy of his batsmen, but at least there was a semblance of hope to be gained from the way Stanlake, in particular, took it upon himself to make an impact.
Paine made a lateral call by handing the new ball to Agar, and was immediately rewarded when Jason Roy played around a ball that skidded through to take leg stump. Ridded of the opening stand that had bedevilled them earlier in the series, the Australians then watched with mounting optimism as Stanlake found intimidating rhythm at the other end.
In Stanlake’s third over, Jonny Bairstow dragged onto the stumps and Joe Root was taken at slip attempting a forcing stroke, both beaten for pace and bounce as the Queenslander at times topped 150kph. A further blow was landed when he proved too quick for Eoin Morgan, comprehensively bowling England’s captain, and with the interval approaching, Alex Hales edged a wide ball from Richardson to grant Australia a fifth wicket.
Buttler was given momentary support from Moeen Ali and debutant Sam Curran, but when Richardson coaxed edges from Curran and Liam Plunkett in consecutive balls, England needed 92 with just two wickets remaining. Rashid proved an impish partner for Buttler as they ate steadily into the target required, and Stanlake’s pace dropped noticeably in his final spell as the fast man tired.
The inability to claim those final two wickets could be linked to a lack of scoreboard pressure, given the measly target set – at no stage were Buttler or Rashid required to force the pace. There was the occasional edge, and one moment’s anxiety when Buttler slipped in coming back for a second run. But he was otherwise untroubled in delivering himself a sublime hundred and England a 5-0 margin, on the same day their football team hurtled into the next phase of the World Cup with a 6-1 thumping of Panama. The way he’s playing at the moment, some role could doubtless be found for Buttler among Harry Kane’s team too.
Seeking a 5-0 sweep of Australia for the first time in the history of ODI encounters between the two nations (they won 3-0 in 1997 and 4-0 in 2012), England handed a debut to the left-armer Curran, with his cap presented before play by James Anderson. On a fine day in Manchester, the pitch was flat, the outfield fast and the brimful of runs.
This much was clear when Curran’s first over for England went for 14 runs, and when Morgan introduced Root’s part-time spin both Aaron Finch and Head made it clear they would not allow him to settle as they had done in Durham on Thursday, playing a flurry of shots. But Moeen’s off breaks were a more challenging proposition, and a subtle change of pace beat Finch on the back foot as he attempted to play the pull shot.
Two balls later and Stoinis, promoted to No. 3, offered a rather indolent sweep shot straight to short backward square leg, meaning England had wrested the momentum despite a run rate still nearly 10 an over. Head and Shaun Marsh attempted consolidation, but when the South Australian captain miscued to squander another platform, a shuddering collapse soon followed. Marsh was deceived by Moeen and artfully stumped by Buttler, before Paine’s misjudgment of a single to be thrown out by Buttler left him with a meagre 36 runs for the series and questions about who will captain Australia in their next ODI series.
A fluent Alex Carey threatened to salvage a decent total for a time, but the former’s exit was swiftly followed by Agar’s lapse, and the rest of the innings was a case of Short having far too much to do. Given the heights they had reached earlier in the series, a target of 206 looked puny for England’s batsmen, Stanlake and Buttler made it an absorbing afternoon for a merry Manchester crowd.