Clarke and Ponting lead way to avoid a whitewash

MICHAEL Clarke, Ricky Ponting and Ryan Harris led Australia to a comfortable 78-run victory over England in the fourth one-day international at the Oval.

Clarke made an unbeaten 99 and Ponting 92 to lift the touring side to a commanding total of 290 for five and England, who clinched the series on Sunday, never looked like reaching their target.

Eoin Morgan made a typically fluent 47, including successive sixes off James Hopes, but he fell to Harris who completed figures of five for 32 to win the man-of-the-match award in an impressive bowling display from the world champions.

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England chose to field after winning the toss and they dismissed Tim Paine early but Shane Watson continued his consistent form in a second-wicket partnership of 40 with Ponting.

Watson was out for 41 but Clarke joined his captain and the pair shared an untroubled stand of 155 in good batting conditions. Ponting fell eight short of his century and Clarke was left stranded on 99 after hitting seven fours from 106 balls.

England lost Craig Kieswetter and Kevin Pietersen cheaply and captain Andrew Strauss was caught by wicketkeeper Paine off Shaun Tait for 37 to leave the hosts in trouble on 61 for three. The in-form Morgan threatened a revival but he also edged a catch to Paine and although Michael Yardy made 57 from 63 balls, wickets fell regularly and Harris had Stuart Broad caught in the covers to end England's innings on 212 in the 43rd over.

With the final match of the series at Lord's on Saturday, Strauss will be looking for an improvement from his men. The England captain last night blamed a "return to old habits" after hopes of claiming a whitewash over the tourists were dashed.

"It was not so good today. We got off to a good start with ball but fair play to Clarke and Ponting," Strauss said afterwards.

"We thought that 290 was chasable and if not par then only just above a par score. But with our batting we reverted to old habits. We lost too many wickets too early and then a few in the middle to leave us with too much to do.

"Even at the halfway mark we thought we had a chance. It was a fairly flat wicket, but we didn't take advantage of the first 15 overs and lost wickets.

"It was a disappointing day, but you have to put it in the context of the series and we have had a lot of good days so far."

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With a 5-0 rout now out of reach there may be a temptation for England's selectors to tinker with the team for Lord's.

Strauss did not rule out the possibility of changes being made, although he would like to finish the series with a win.

"I don't know, we'll see. We certainly want to finish the series 4-1 instead of 3-2 and finish well," he added. "As for personnel we'll have to see how the players are tomorrow."

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