MICHAEL Clarke’s Australia earned a measure of redemption in Manchester as the captain’s hundred powered them to an 88-run victory over England.
At the ground where Australia conceded the Ashes last month – despite Clarke’s 187 – they took a 1-0 lead with three to play in this one-day international series.
Clarke (105) struck his first ODI century against England and combined with George Bailey (82) in a fourth-wicket stand of 155 in a total of 315 for seven.
It meant England, who had put Australia in on a pitch of slightly uneven pace, needed to pull off their highest successful chase in this format. Despite half-centuries from Kevin Pietersen (60), captain Eoin Morgan (54) and Jos Buttler (75), they never seriously threatened to do so.
At nine for two, there already appeared to be no way back and England were eventually bowled out with the final 5.4 overs unused. But despite such a convincing reverse, one-day captain Eoin Morgan said he had confidence in the balance of his side.
“It was very disappointing,” Morgan said. “Not to get a win under our belt is disappointing but we can learn a lot from today. Moving on from here were are looking forward to Wednesday.
“We have a very strong batting line-up and one we have confidence in regardless of whether we bat or bowl first .
“We have a lot of bowling options and guys we can turn to.
“Unfortunately, we lost wickets at unfortunate times.”
Clarke had earlier reached his eighth century in this format from only 94 balls, having hit 14 fours but taken few obvious risks as only Boyd Rankin was able to consistently exert much control.
The 30-over platform was a very good one, at 159 for three, especially after Australia had lost Shaun Marsh without a run on the board. The left-hander, who stroked 151 in a record opening stand of 246 with Aaron Finch in last Tuesday’s victory over Scotland, lasted only four balls this time.
Marsh followed some full-length swing from Steven Finn, edging behind, and it was almost nought for two next ball.
Instead, Shane Watson profited from the vagaries of the Decision Review System when Aleem Dar’s third-umpire deliberations overturned Richard Kettleborough’s initial lbw verdict on Hotspot evidence of bat on ball.
Watson played a fretful part in the first of three successive 50-plus stands until DRS got him in the end, Dar concluding – this time on the basis of audio only – that the No 3 had edged a wide ball behind off Bopara for birthday boy Buttler’s second catch.
First-change Ben Stokes made a nervy start, over-pitching in a solitary over of his first spell from the old pavilion end.
Australia also refused to let James Tredwell settle, and the hosts needed the respite provided when the off-spinner had Finch routinely held when he picked out Joe Root at long-on five short of his 50.
Bailey was assured and fluent from the outset, though, as he and Clarke stayed ahead of the game – sufficiently to call an early powerplay, in which Australia cashed in for 43 for none.
In the last of those five overs, Stokes conceded 13 as Bailey followed his captain to a half-century with his third six – a clean, straight hit – to go with three fours from 47 balls.
Bailey and then Clarke too, caught behind off the deserving Rankin, fell in the last 10 overs as England fought back to restrict the damage a little.
Their reply got off to a miserable start, though, thanks principally to Mitchell Johnson. Bowling at 90mph or more, the erratic left-armer veered much closer to his irresistible best than occasionally unfathomable worst.
Michael Carberry and especially Jonathan Trott could attest to that, having gone for four and nought respectively.
Opener Carberry slapped a catch to point off the back foot but then the No 3 departed to an outstanding short ball which took the shoulder of the bat for caught-behind.
Root could not come to terms with the requirements and, having fortuitously survived Johnson’s new-ball spell, was bowled through the gate on the back foot by James Faulkner.
Pietersen changed gear with a sudden rush of big shots and hit five fours and two sixes in his 50.
But, when Clarke recalled Johnson to try to break the fourth-wicket stand with Morgan, two testing overs cost only four runs. And, as the ever-increasing required rate pushed eight-an-over, Pietersen responded by mistiming a tame catch to cover off Watson.
When Morgan went in the first over of the batting powerplay, mistiming the returning Clint McKay (three for 47) to extra-cover, only the scorecard details were yet to be decided.
Thanks to Buttler’s maiden ODI 50, completed with a six over midwicket off Faulkner from just 49 balls, the meagre consolation was that England at least limped past their heaviest runs defeat against Australia – at this venue 12 years ago.