Moeen, Morgan carry England past sorry Australia



Moeen Ali was adjudged Man of the Match for his 3-43. © AFP

It may not have been as easy as it seemed at half-way stage, and perhaps that had little to do with the aftershocks of the Edinburgh reverse, but England dispatched Australia comfortably to go one-nil up in the five-match series after a fine bowling performance at The Oval on Wednesday (June 13). Moeen Ali atoned for his misstep against Scotland with a charming display of off-spin and then Eoin Morgan and Joe Root struck fifties before England overcame a minor stumble to chase down Australia’s 214 with three wickets and six overs to spare.

At the end of a game, which seemed determined to stay stuck in third gear, the overriding verdict was that of Australia shooting themselves in the foot with a batting performance that bordered on inept. England’s better appreciation of the Oval surface and the dimensions of the ground gave the hosts the edge but Tim Paine had the advantage of the toss. A strong batting performance after the shenanigans of a pre-series handshake would have served well to dispel the uncertainty clouds around the team.

Yet, not for the first time this year, Moeen and Adil Rashid spun a web around their line-up, combining beautifully to take 5 for 79 as Australia struggled to find a middle path between attacking and defending against spin. Barring Glenn Maxwell’s enterprising 62 and a resolute 40 from Ashton Agar, no other batsman in the visitors’ ranks showed any gumption to ride through that tricky spin phase leading to Australia falling three overs short of their allotted 50-overs.

The visitors enjoyed the better of the starts in the afternoon despite losing Travis Head cheaply – nicked off chasing a wide one from David Willey. Aaron Finch, retained at his favoured opening slot, got going with a flurry of boundaries, and along with Shaun Marsh, looked set to lay a solid platform. Moeen came to bowl in the ninth over and within eight deliveries, had both the batsmen back in hut. Finch, deceived by the drift, found his attempted lofted shot go in the direction of short third-man, while Marsh played inside to a delivery that spun a touch and lost his off-stump.

From 47 for 1, the visitors quickly slipped to 90 for 5 after a dreadful sweep shot from captain Tim Paine gave Moeen a third while Rashid chipped in with the wicket of Marcus Stoinis. With Australia playing a batsman short to accommodate debutant all-rounder Michael Neser, the situation looked dire.

Maxwell chose a good moment to work himself into some semblance of form, biding his timing and cutting out risks early on. Agar, despite not contributing much in the form of runs, occupied one end and Australia’s scoreboard kept ticking along. Maxwell switched gears in Moeen’s last over, smacking the offspineer for a six and couple of boundaries before hitting Joe Root into the stands the following over. He ended a 18-month half-century drought soon after and appeared to be pushing the visitors to a position of comfort before calamity struck.

Liam Plunkett laid a trap to have Maxwell caught at long-leg and saw his plan come to fruition. Agar was soon dismissed LBW by Rashid and the rest of the batting line-up collapsed in a fashion not very unlike how the top-order had done earlier.

After a little oasis of serenity in the wake of the Scoland defeat, England’s batsman reverted to type. The top-order, notably the in-form Jonny Bairstow, kept finding the boundary with curious consistency but kept getting picked off by an Australian pace attack that revelled in its use of the scrambled seam. Jason Roy bagged a duck, reacting late to a nip-backer. Alex Hales missed a straight delivery to give Neser his first wicket while Bairstow found deep mid-wicket with surgical precision.

At 38 for 3, Eoin Morgan and Joe Root joined hands and stitched a 115-run partnership. Root played a rather subdued role while adopting a more upright stance, allowing Morgan to indulge in his drives past cover. At 153 for 3, the victory was in sight when England conspired to add an element of drama to the finish. Morgan and Root were caught behind while the returning Jos Buttler (for Sam Billings) failed to an attempted lofted shot. Moeen fell for 17 looking to hasten the finish, one that was eventually achieved with the help of a reassuring 35 from David Willey.

Brief scores: Australia 214 in 47 overs (Glenn Maxwell 62; Moeen Ali 3-43, Liam Plunkett 3-42) lost to England 218/7 in 44 overs (Eoin Morgan 69, Joe Root 50; Andrew Tye 2-42) by three wickets.

© Cricbuzz


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