It may have been low scoring but it had just as many thrills and spills as one of the more lauded boundary fests and it had some heroes. Jos Buttler was quite superb for England and took them to the target of 228 with some quite brilliant hitting but also some disciplined batting. His 65 not out off 48 balls must be considered one of his most mature innings. However, both George Bailey and Clint McKay deserved to win the game for Australia. The glib line says sport is a game of inches. Well, a low-scoring, tight one-day match can be a game of millimetres as numerous near-miss run-outs demonstrated.
Apart from Buttler, pictured, McKay delivered the most telling blows of the day and all in the same over. By dismissing Kevin Pietersen lbw and both Jonathan Trott and Joe Root caught behind in three consecutive deliveries he became only the fifth Australian to record a hat-trick in one-day international cricket. It was quality bowling but demonstrated nothing more than had been obvious from the morning when England chose to bowl and reduced Australia to a parlous 57-4 – that the pitch had a bit of juice in it. It was not surprising as rain had lingered around Cardiff for the most of the week. But a pitch beneficial to the seamers did not detract from the game. Cricket, in all formats, is meant to be a challenge of players and one of those is how they adapt. That is why Bailey’s innings to set up the target of 228 was so impressive. His 83 was a mixture of caution, not surprisingly against the seamers, and calculated attack, not surprisingly against the spinner. He hit James Tredwell for three beautiful sixes as the off-spinner was exposed by an exceedingly short straight boundary but what was impressive was that Bailey did so regardless of the scoreboard.
To attack Tredwell was a clear plan at Old Trafford but to continue to do so when the Swalec scoreboard screamed for reserve took nerve. Sometimes a player needs to command the situation rather than react. The former Scottish Saltire did that and did so brilliantly. So did Buttler. Only one could win. It was Buttler and it sets up a wonderful finish to the summer in Southampton tomorrow.