Image courtesy of: The Guardian
Bell’s 91 propelled England to an emphatic win
The historic Edgbaston ground in Birmingham was the place to be on June 8 as arch-rivals England and Australia prepared for their pre-Ashes clash in which the winner would be deemed to have the psychological advantage over their opponent heading into the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on July 10.
The media had once again been all over Australia on the eve of the match as pundits grasped, what may have been their last opportunity, to take another shot at Australia prior to the start of the Ashes.
England, who were looking to make their home fans proud, won the toss and elected to bat first on a pitch that proved to be “an absolute belter”, according to Shane Warne, after more than 600 runs were scored during India and Sri Lanka’s warm-up match.
England made a solid start to their innings, with captain Alastair Cook and Ian Bell making a brisk 50-run partnership before the skipper got a thin edge going for a drive off the bowling of Australian all-rounder Shane Watson.
Bell was joined at the crease by his fellow Warwickshire team-mate Jonathan Trott and the pair immediately got to work by running between the wicket effectively and dispatching any loose deliveries to the boundary.
The crowd was treated to an astounding spectacle as the pair kept the scoreboard ticking, while also leaving the Australian bowlers with their hands on their heads.
Australia captain George Bailey looked as if he was about to pull his hair out before the reliable Mitchell Starc came to the rescue, taking the wicket of Trott, also known as ‘Mr Consistent’.
By now Bell had already passed his half-century and looked intent on reaching triple figures, but it was not to be, as he was cleaned up on 91 after completely playing all round a straight delivery by pace bowler James Faulkner.
Australia’s reigning ODI Player of the Year, Clint McKay, then got in the action with two quick wickets, the first being England’s ‘Golden Boy’ Joe Root and the second Eoin Morgan, who was completely bamboozled when his stumps were left splattered all over the place.
Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler was the next to fall as he edged a delivery from Faulkner back onto his stumps.
However, the returning Ravi Bopara, who was on a mission to clean up his tarnished name, provided the crowd with a last minute fireworks show, as he hammered 46 runs from 37 balls, which included three boundaries and a six.
Bopara and Tim Bresnan put together a priceless 56-run partnership at a blistering run rate of 8.19.
England finished their innings on a highly competitive total of 269.
McKay and Faulkner were the pick of the Australian bowlers with two wickets apiece, while Watson and Starc chipped in with a wicket each.
Chasing a target of 270 to win, Australia were pegged back by the early wickets of opening pair David Warner and Watson.
Phillip Hughes and skipper George Bailey put together a valuable 47-run partnership before Hughes himself was given out lbw off the bowling of Root after being caught in front of the stumps when attempting an ugly looking shot.
Bailey continued to battle on, but one by one, his partners fell like a line of dominos and, by the time he had registered his own half-century, England were already amongst the Australia’s tailenders.
The increasing run rate proved to be the downfall for Bailey as he was caught on 55 by Root off the bowling of James Tredwell when trying to clear the boundary.
Faulkner was the only other batsman to show some resilience as he walloped the English bowling attack to all parts on the ground to finish on 54 not out, which included five boundaries and a six.
Australia were left 48 runs short of their target as they walked off the field, feeling humiliated and knowing that the English press were going to have a field day after witnessing how their middle order collapsed.
England’s pace spearhead James Anderson was the best of the best as he racked up three wickets, while Bresnan took two and Stuart Broad, Root, Tredwell and Bopara each picked up one wicket apiece.
Speaking about the loss, Bailey noted that Australia would have done better if the top and middle order had not completely caved in under the pressure of England’s bowlers.
“We were a partnership short with the bat we couldn’t get anything going,” Bailey said. “From 1 for 170 we did a really job to pull it back wit the ball, it looked a very good batting deck. But if it’s going to be that dry then we probably need a spinner.”
England captain Alastair Cook was pleased with his side’s performance and gave special mentions to Bell, Broad and Anderson.
“It was a good performances all-round, the pitch got slower and lower after 30 overs,” Cook said. “We should have got around 300 from where we were 180 for 2 but i thought 270 was good enough. When they were 30 off 10 I thought Jimmy and Broady were exceptional.”
Bell was declared the Man of the Match for his superb 91.