The mighty Scots may have proved too strong for them but England just about got the better of the new-look friendlier Aussies on an unexpectedly low-scoring night at the Oval.
The start of Australia’s attempt at redemption following the Cape Town ball-tampering scandal ended with the No 1 side in the world reasserting themselves after the embarrassment of Edinburgh.
England, refusing to take a step back from the all-out attacking style that has revolutionised their white-ball cricket, lost seven wickets in overtaking a woefully under-par Australian total of 214 all out.
David Willey bashes a six down the ground to lead England to a three-wicket victory
Joe Root hit exactly 50 before he edged Billy Stanlake to wicketkeeper Tim Paine
Eoin Morgan and Joe Root pump firsts during their stand of 145 in the first ODI match
Eoin Morgan raises his bat to the crowd after reaching a run-a-ball half-century at the Oval
Morgan plays a pull shot as the England captain helped his side stabilise after early wickets
Joe Root batted in a becalmed manner as the hosts recovered from 38 for three on Wednesday
But David Willey made his highest score for England and smashed debutant Michael Neser for a straight six to finish things off alongside Liam Plunkett with fully 36 balls to spare.
There was none of the toxic aggression that led to Australia’s implosion in South Africa in March and year-long bans for the Dastardly and Muttley of world cricket in Steve Smith and David Warner for cheating.
Instead the first one-day international began with a staged show of sportsmanship and handshakes between the sides and was all sweetness and light before England crept unconvincingly over the line.
And the only notable sledging came from afar in the form of departed coach Darren Lehmann who took the BBC’s excellent Alison Mitchell to task on Twitter.
All Mitchell had done was post a picture of one of the pieces of sandpaper with four or six on them that an enterprising stockbroking app had handed out outside the Oval to try to poke fun at the Aussies during the game.
Sadly the spoilsports at Surrey attempted to confiscate all 5,000 of them, blaming ambush marketing, but one or two spectators managed to sneak them into the ground and tried to get them autographed by Australian players.
Jonny Bairstow walks back to the pavilion after he is caught for 28 at deep square leg
Australia celebrate after Michael Neser trapped Alex Hales lbw for just five runs
Australia got off to the perfect start with the ball as Jason Roy was bowled off his second ball
England’s spinners had endured a miserable afternoon in Edinburgh when faced with The Grange’s short boundaries but here, just as predicted by Eoin Morgan, they were back to being integral to the home attack.
Morgan invariably trusts Moeen Ali in the power-play and his confidence was justified again when Aaron Finch, with five centuries against England to his name, fell to the off-spinner’s fourth ball in the ninth over.
By that time Willey, perhaps the luckiest England bowler to retain his place after bowling far too short against Scotland, had struck with his second ball to dismiss Travis Head and England were well on their way.
Australia had looked vulnerable to spin in the warm-up matches against Sussex and Middlesex and now Moeen and Adil Rashid took full advantage with five wickets between them aided by an array of quite awful shots.
None were more culpable than the man who has been charged with restoring Australia’s tattered reputation in a captain in Tim Paine who will have to justify his place in this one-day side ahead of the World Cup.
Here Paine played a reverse sweep off Moeen that was never a percentage shot with a short third man in place and succeeded only in lobbing the ball straight to Mark Wood.
When Marcus Stoinis fell to Rashid Australia were 90 for five and heading for a thrashing that was only averted when Glenn Maxwell made his first half-century in one-day international cricket for 18 months.
Joe Root celebrates with Mark Wood after combining for the wicket of Kane Richardson
Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid and Wood were among the wickets to bowl out Australia for 214
Glenn Maxwell hits out against the spinners but the tourists struggled to build partnerships
Maxwell raises his bat to the crowd after passing 50 during his innings of 62 from 64 balls
How times have changed for Maxwell, who was criticised for having a bad attitude by disgraced former captain Smith but who now finds himself providing crucial experience to this new-look side.
Maxwell gave notice of his intentions when he took 14 off Moeen’s last over to slightly spoil his figures and then went on to 62 off 64 balls before Jonny Bairstow took an excellent running catch on the boundary.
That was one of three wickets for another under pressure bowler in Liam Plunkett, who was the most expensive member of England’s attack in Edinburgh just a few days after being dropped by Yorkshire.
Plunkett, as revealed by Sportsmail on Tuesday, will miss England’s one-day series in Sri Lanka in October because of his winter so he cannot afford too many poor performances if he is not to fade away with the World Cup in sight.
When Andrew Tye became Plunkett’s third victim Australia had been dismissed for around a hundred short of par and had wasted three overs in what was a pretty dismal start to their new, friendlier era.
Moeen Ali returned to form with the ball for England taking three for 43 from his 10 overs
Australia captain Tim Paine attempts to reverse sweep the spinner but is caught by Wood
David Willey celebrates after taking the early wicket of Travis Head caught by Jonny Bairstow
Australia were in the game when England slipped to 38 for three in reply, Jason Roy falling second ball to the pace of Billy Stanlake, Alex Hales being trapped by Neser and Jonny Bairstow picking out the one deep fielder on the legside to end his attempt at a fourth successive century.
Morgan and Root looked to be turning the chase into a stroll when they added 105 for the fourth wicket but, just as against Scotland, England stuttered as they struggled to adapt to the situation.
Jos Buttler could have been out twice in a skittish innings before he fell to Tye’s trademark knuckle ball and when Root fell to the excellent Stanlake England were wobbling at 163 for six.
Moeen, who insisted before the game that he would continue to do things his way, again took England close to the finishing line but again gave it away as he attempted to hook Neser over the longest boundary in the ground.
Thankfully for England Willey provided an overdue clam hand on the tiller to take England one up with four to play in this Royal London series against what looks like a very ordinary Australia side.
But at least it was one that played the game the right way.
An England fan taunted one of the Australian players with a roll of sandpaper in the crowd
Both sets of players shook hands before start of play as Australia sought to repair their image