Mitchell Starc bowled top and tail either side of center-spinner Adam Zampa to bowl England out for 72 runs to Australia’s 280 for eight as the hosts raced to a 2-0 lead at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday night. one-day international series.
James Vince and Sam Billings led the recovery from 34 for three and finally got back into the hunt with an excellent partnership of 132, needing another 124 in less than a run a ball. But with Vince falling for 60 and Billings for 71, the chase ended in a sequence of seven for 52.
It was another good day for the bowlers after the T20 World Cup, maintaining a competitive balance between bat and ball. The SCG surface offered plenty and with regular captains, Jos Buttler and Pat Cummins rested, the teams were led by England all-rounder Moeen Ali and Australian quick Josh Hazlewood. However, it was Starc who enjoyed his trip the most.
During the recent World Cup, Starc was moved from his long-standing role of opening the bowling, with the Australian management talking him up as a middle-order enforcer before dropping him for the match against Afghanistan, which Australia needed to win by a mile.
With the new ball restored to him in these ODIs, Starc started taking wickets again. Jason Roy was surprised to bounce off the side and aim it at Alex Carey, before Dawid Malan got the ball Roy was expecting and blasted off his pads and into his stumps. Starc had a maiden double wicket.
Backing him up, Hazlewood slashed the ball brutally in an engaging battle with Phil Salt, who carved out 23 off 16 before backing down and losing his stumps. Down for three in the sixth over, Vince responded with a gem of an innings as he bowled some good balls and attacked in style, culminating when Ashton Agar covered for a six.
Billings was patchy in comparison, surviving a narrow lbw review from Zampa but growing in fluency, including back-to-back sixes from Agar in the 22nd over. The batsmen reached 50 in six balls apart. Hazlewood changed course, the stand-in skipper kicked the ball back and hit Vince in front.
His opposing captain took on Zampa, Ali smashed a four and a six off his first two balls, but the leg-spinner was too good and smashed a quicker delivery past Ali’s back-leg defence.
Zampa’s next over showed his range, drifting and diving under the bat of the advancing Billings, again hitting the stumps in dramatically different means. Four balls later, air time and googlies forced Sam Curran to chop his big hit to long-on. It was 169 for seven and almost all.
Starc returned to hit the stumps of Chris Woakes and David Willey before Zampa trapped Liam Dawson, the bowlers finishing with four wickets each. Only Wasim Akram, Brett Lee, Muttiah Muralitharan and Wasim Akram have done it more often in ODI cricket than Starc and he has played less than half the matches than any of them.
For Australia, a good day with the ball came with the bat. David Warner and Travis Head made another quick start for 33 before both got below 20, but Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne put together a measured partnership of 101, measuring the difficulty of the pitch and the quality of the bowling as Woakes found reverse swing. Willey used variations and Adil Rashid teased through the air.
Rashid got them both out, but not before Labuschagne reached 58 and Smith went on to make 94, looking much more composed than in recent years with his newfound composure at the crease. Mitchell Marsh also found hitting difficult on this surface in Sydney, hitting two sixes but mostly working the ball into the gaps and adjusting his game to make 59 with an even 50.
Agar provided some late momentum, mostly through hard running rather than boundary hitting, and 280 turned out to be a very good score in the conditions. The result is likely to lead to a collective shrug from the changing England squad: Ali, Curran, Woakes and Rashid were included after the first match, with Buttler, Chris Jordan, Olly Stone and Luke Wood dropped.
For Australia, Warner, Smith and Carey were all involved in the bowling and fielding changes. Still, if a trivia question is asked about Australia’s one-day captains in 20 years’ time and Josh Hazlewood is the surprise answer, at least he’ll know he got away with a win.
“It was quite exciting and a bit nerve-wracking,” Hazlewood said.
“I sure enjoyed it. The stand-in skipper also praised the impact of Starc’s swing. “It was probably unexpected,” Hazlewood said. “There was no swing from anybody else throughout the game. There were some beauties.”
“You know exactly what he’s going to do, but reacting to it is something else,” said England’s Vince. “You need a bit of luck against a ball like that. [to dismiss Malan]. When we lost those early wickets we had to rebuild a bit, we got it going and then when I got out there was another flurry that killed the game.
“I would have liked more input to get us there, as would Bilbo [Billings]” Vince added. “If we could keep that partnership going longer, we’d give ourselves a better chance of winning.”
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