England has crashed to its 7th defeat in a row to the Australians, this time it was an eight-wicket defeat coming in the first match of the tri-nation Commonwealth Bank Series at Melbourne. The distance between the two sides continues to be huge even though both sides are quite different in terms of their line ups for the One Dayers. The Australians had comfortably chased the target of 243 with 4.4 overs to spare. Adam Gilchrist made the target look silly with a quick half century. After a couple of wickets fall, Australia recovered and never looked back with Ponting and Clarke scoring fifties.
The toss was won by England today who decided to bat first on a beautiful batting strip. The captain Michael Vaughan had come out to bat along with Andrew Strauss. Monty Panesar and the 36-year-old Paul Nixon were given their ODI Debuts. The Australian cricketers were clad in beautiful green uniform with a golden tinge to it unlike their traditional dominant yellow colours. There weren’t any new faces in their side except for Cameron White, the leg spinning all rounder, playing in his 6th ODI. This match was the 100th ODI that the Australian Umpire Simon Taufel was officiating in. Nathan Bracken put England on the backfoot in the first ten overs by getting the two English openers to edge his away going delivery to Matthew Hayden at slips. Michael Vaughan might have scored just 26 but whatever strokes he played looked absolutely classy. England for sure had missed his services in the Ashes! England were put on the track by a 95-run stand between Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood for the fourth wicket. Collingwood who had taken time to get going was dismissed with the slogs approaching, miscuing a loft off a slower one from McGrath. Collingwood’s contribution to the rebuilding of England innings was a 43 from 70 balls.
Kevin Pietersen was going great guns once he saw that England were in a relatively safe position. He unleashed his full range of shots and was in particular severe on Cameron White. The leggie took a beating in the three overs he had bowled which went for 27. It didn’t matter to Pietersen whether it was a leg break or a googly from White, if it was there to be hit, he would and with the boundary ropes well inside, it wasn’t easy to be a spinner today. Pietersen’s downfall had come in the 44th over as he played weak slog off Stuart Clark to be caught in the deep by the reliable Andrew Symonds. KP could have well got a big hundred, but ever since he was hit painfully on his ribs by a McGrath short delivery, things started to look completely different. Pietersen was hit on the ribs after giving a predetermined charge to the fast bowler when he was on 73. He could add another 9 runs. His knock had contained 4 fours and 3 sixes. In the end, the fireworks and the finishing touches were provided by Andrew Flintoff, a 38-ball 47 which had five fours. It was a great innings from Freddie as he was quickly losing partners at the other end and he had do everything on his own.
One of the highlights of the English innings was a stunning catch taken by Ricky Ponting in the final over. Jon Lewis had smacked a full toss from Bracken which looked to be going in the gaps between point and covers comfortably. But Ponting dived full length to his right to pluck a mind blowing catch in mid air. Bracken with that dismissal ended up with three wickets in his 9 overs. Mitchell Johnson and Glenn McGrath chipped in with a couple of wickets each.
The Australian openers – Gilchrist and Hayden batted as if the target was hardly anything and it looked that the two batsmen were good enough to knock off these runs in quick time. Michael Vaughan didn’t come under pressure by all the hitting that was going around, he calmly marshaled his resources and had changed the pace of the game by getting his two spinners – Monty Panesar and Jamie Dalrymple. Gilchrist was finally sent back to the pavilion after he had got a thin edge to a cut shot off Dalrymple to the keeper. But by then enough damage was done with Gilchrist scoring 60 from 61 with 7 fours and a six over long on off Flintoff. The opening partnership was 101 in 15.3 overs! In another three overs, Matthew Hayden was beautifully deceived in the air by Monty Panesar who dragged him out of the crease and then got the ball to turn slightly to get an edge. If Hayden wasn’t given caught behind then he would have been given stumped out as he got stranded a long distance in front of the popping crease.
For an England win, the bowlers needed to take 8 more wickets at regular intervals, which was an unrealistic task. With Ricky Ponting on the attack, the game moved away from England in no time. The only thing they could do was to delay the Australia victory to the 46th over which was enough to deny them the bonus point. Ponting remained unbeaten on 82 from 96 with 8 fours and Clarke was also not out, he made 54 from 74 balls. Monty Panesar was decent in his ODI debut with 1 for 46 and Jamie Dalrymple, although he is more of a batsman, did a good job in going for only 38 in his 10 overs besides taking Gilchrist’s wicket. The player of the match was given to Adam Gilchrist for making the target look very small.
Pietersen is out of the series
Kevin Pietersen has been ruled out of the remaining matches of the Commonwealth Bank Series due to a broken rib. Pietersen would fly back to England who will miss the services of their best batsman on this tour. The injury is expected to keep him out of action for three to five weeks. He was hit on the rib cage after failing to connect a short delivery from McGrath. The right hander was walking in front trying to force McGrath to the onside when he was batting on 73, a ploy he often does to unsettle the bowlers.