England 6 for 274 (Bairstow 60, Hales 57, Starc 4-57) beat Australia 9 for 270 (Finch 106) by 4 wickets
Brisbane: England hold their nerve to take a 2-0 lead in the one-day international series with a four-wicket victory over Australia at Brisbane.
Australia will be scratching their heads again after another one-sided tussle. Winning the toss and opting to bat, they crawled to 270/9, built around Aaron Finch’s second hundred of the series but at least 40 runs shy of a truly competitive total.
While Finch dropped anchor, Australia’s support cast spluttered in the shallow end against England’s spinners – in total, 24 overs would be delivered from a combination of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Joe Root, with five of the top six wickets snared between them.
It was Root, so much more than the ‘occasional bowler’ he is sometimes erroneously labelled as, who turned the innings in England’s favour.
At 110/1 after 19.4 overs Australia were readying themselves to pounce when Steve Smith inexplicably missed a straight off-break from Root and was adjudged LBW.
When, soon after, Root induced a false drive from Travis Head, Australia’s innings had hit the skids. A mini-recovery was then duly cut short when Mitchell Marsh ran past a conventional Rashid leg-break, before the critical removal of Finch, caught at mid-on.
An over later, Rashid removed the dangerous and in-form Marcus Stoinis with a beautiful delivery to be brilliantly taken by Jos Buttler.
From a position of promise, Australia’s innings had descended into mediocrity.
Such is the quality of England’s batting line-up, and the confidence surging through it, few felt Australia’s total to be anywhere near good enough, and despite the early dismissal of Jason Roy, so it proved.
England’s tactics are devastatingly simple and at this stage utterly unstoppable.
They pack their top-order with hitters – Roy may have missed out here, but Jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales each helped themselves to half-centuries as the back of the run-chase was forcefully breached, while Root simply bats, enjoying another ‘outdoor net’ and remaining serenely undefeated at the close.
His unbeaten 91 at the MCG, followed up here with 46 not out takes his average in ODI cricket since January 2017 up to 80.
The Sheffield maestro barely played a shot in anger, cruising to the finish and another Man of the Match award.
Afterwards, Eoin Morgan talked about the level of trust within his group.
Each member knows their role and is liberated from any fear of failure to express themselves fully.
They have pace up-top, spinners to squeeze the middle overs, a zestful fielding unit and a beautifully balanced batting line-up fixed around the rock that is Root.
Australia, so dominant in the Test series, appear cluttered in their thinking with the bat and toothless with the ball.
For all the promise shown by the slippery-quick Jhye Richardson, who impressed with two wickets on debut, they sorely lacked the cutting thrust of Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins.
Unless both return to support Starc in those opening 15 overs, Australia will be staring down the barrel of an emphatic series defeat.
Two-down with three to play, the third match at the SCG on Sunday looms large. Australia must bounce back, or else risk being humiliated on their home patch.