Watson the hero as Australia win series

Shane Watson salutes the crowd after a majestic innings of 143. Picture: Getty
Shane Watson salutes the crowd after a majestic innings of 143. Picture: Getty
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England fell to a 49-run defeat as Shane Watson’s mighty 143 proved too much for them at the Ageas Bowl, and gave Australia some consolation silverware at last this summer.

Michael Clarke’s team comfortably defended 298 all out under lights to take the NatWest Series 2-1 and perhaps soothe their Ashes and Champions Trophy disappointments.

After Watson and Clarke (76) had ensured a par score on a quick and true pitch, England’s attempt at a ground-record run chase featured two costly run-outs – starting with another mix-up between openers Michael Carberry and Kevin Pietersen.

This time, unlike in the rain-wrecked match at Edgbaston last week, Pietersen was the fall guy – and then despite a 92-run stand between Ravi Bopara (62) and Jos Buttler, England could not get competitive on the way to 249 all out in 48 overs.

Watson and Clarke’s innings were on a different plane from what surrounded them in another often patchy Australia batting performance as Ben Stokes finished with a maiden one-day international five-wicket haul.

After Pietersen then went for a first-ball duck, however, England’s task was suddenly that much harder. Called for a sharp single after a loud appeal for lbw from Clint McKay, Pietersen was unable to beat Fawad Ahmed’s throw from short fine-leg.

Carberry helped Joe Root re-establish England’s composure until he was second out, lbw to James Faulkner (three for 38) after a DRS overturn. Root could not cope with Mitchell Johnson’s express pace, and inside-edged a wide yorker-length ball on to his stumps. Luke Wright became the second run-out victim, also for a duck, responding to a call from Eoin Morgan, and then the captain himself was stumped as Adam Voges floated the ball a little wider.

Bopara needed DRS on five to reverse an lbw decision, Hawk-Eye tracking the ball from Voges to miss leg stump. But when Buttler and he both went in powerplay, respectively bowled by Faulkner’s change of angle and well caught at extra-cover off Johnson, England had left Stokes too much to do with the tail.

Their bowlers were earlier unable to contain Watson and Clarke during a brutal stand of 163 in 22 overs, after Stokes (five for 61) reduced the tourists to 48 for three with two wickets in two balls. Watson hit 12 fours and six sixes from 107 balls, including 26 in boundaries off Root’s final over. He and Clarke had already hit James Tredwell out of the attack again, and it was only when the Australia captain fell to debutant Chris Jordan (three for 51) that England began to drag back control.

Jordan began by making short work of opener Phil Hughes. Aaron Finch was undeterred alongside Watson but he smeared a catch straight to Morgan at point from Stokes’ first ball after a half-hour rain break, and Matthew Wade made a golden duck when he gloved an attempted pull behind.

Clarke and Watson eschewed a rebuilding process in favour of all-out counter-attack, with Clarke’s stay eventually foundering on a mistimed big hit at Jordan which only went as far as mid-off. Then Root got George Bailey cheaply – over-balancing and stumped by Buttler.

Australia were to make only 96 for seven in the scheduled last 20 overs. It was Stokes who did the most damage, adding two wickets in three balls to his earlier two-in-two. First, he had Voges caught-behind; then Watson edged behind too as he went for another big hit, and Johnson poked back a return catch.

In the end, it was as much as Australia could do to limp towards 300 as Buttler finished with five victims.