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Watson and Clarke gave all the Australian players and fans a reason to celebrate
Australia all-rounder Shane Watson blitzed his way to a brilliant century as he and skipper Michael Clarke ensured the baggy greens finished their tour of England on a high note.
With the series tied at 1-1, it all came down to the final ODI at Southampton to decide who would walk away with the series and bragging rights.
Clarke won the toss and decided to bat first since he wanted to make England chase a big total.
However, his hopes of making a huge total were quashed early on as opening batsman Phillip Hughes was dismissed by debutant Chris Jordan for just two runs.
Hughes’ opening partner Aaron Finch managed to score 26 runs before he was caught out off the bowling of Ben Stokes.
Things went from bad to worse for Australia as wicketkeeper Matthew Wade was on his way back to the pavilion the very next delivery.
With Australia struggling at 48/3, Watson and Clarke steadied the innings with an impressive 163-run partnership, during which both batsmen registered their half-centuries, before Clarke was dismissed by Jordan for 75 off 76 balls, which included 10 boundaries and a six.
Clarke and Watson’s partnership had come at a blistering run rate of 7.35.
Despite the dismissal of Clarke, Watson continued to power on and soon he was raising his bat in the air in acknowledgement of having surpassed the 100-run mark.
Watson continued to pile on the runs and it was only when he was nearing his 150 that Stokes got him to edge a delivery to Jos Buttler behind the stumps.
Watson scored a magnificent 143 off 107 deliveries, which included 12 boundaries and an incredible six maximums.
Thanks to the efforts of Watson and Clarke, Australia were able to post a score of 298 before being bowled out with five balls to spare.
Stokes demolished Australia’s batting line-up as he finished with a five-wicket haul, while Jordan picked up three wickets and Boyd Rankin and Joe Root both chipped in with one wicket apiece.
Chasing a tough total of 299 to win, England got off to a shoddy start as Kevin Pietersen was run out for a duck off the fourth ball of the innings.
Pietersen’s opening partner Michael Carberry was able to score 30 runs before being given out lbw.
Root fared no better as he was clean bowled by left-arm pace bowler Mitchell Johnson for 21.
Luke Wright also failed to make an impact as he was run out by George Bailey for a golden duck.
England captain Eoin Morgan, who had rescued his side on numerous occasions throughout the series, could not pull off a miracle today as he was stumped by Wade on 30 off the bowling of Adam Voges.
With England looking down and out at 103/5, Ravi Bopara and Buttler put together a 92-run partnership, during which Bopara brought up his half-century, to inject some life into the game.
Their entertaining partnership was ended when Buttler was cleaned up by James Faulkner for 42 off 37 balls, which included four boundaries.
Bopara did not last much longer as he was caught out off the bowling of Johnson for 62 off 66 deliveries, which included five boundaries.
Despite a quickfire 27 from Stokes, England were bowled out for 249, giving Australia a convincing 49-run win.
Faulkner was the pick of Australia’s bowlers with three wickets, while Johnson snapped up two and Voges, Watson and Fawad Ahmed all chipped in with one wicket each.
Morgan was disappointed to have lost the series, but praised his side for putting up a tremendous fight.
“We did really well to restrict them to under 300 but we lost wickets regularly and no-one played a big innings for us,” he said. “We haven’t stuck to our guns and built up front. But we’ve learned a lot from the young prospect coming through. It’s been really interesting for me as captain. I’ve enjoyed the young guys coming through and I’m getting back my own form.”
Clarke was pleased to be leaving England with something to smile about and his grin became even bigger as he was named the Man of the Series.
“It was extremely cold but we hung in there,” he said. “Shane Watson today was outstanding, to be able to play like that in what was a final for us was a great effort, and they way we bowled was a very good performances today. this series to a lot of people doesn’t matter much for us it matters a great deal. We’ve worked extremely hard and it’s a nice reward. We go to India now and hopefully we can perform well, we want to the be the No. 1 one-day side in the world. We’ve had a great time and the people of the UK have treated us very well.”
Watson received the Man of the Match award for his outstanding knock, and said: “That was a lot of fun. We haven’t had much success on this tour so it’s nice to come away with the win. I capitalised on England’s fourth and fifth bowlers, we though that was the weaker part of their team. It’s been an amazing tour in the end, things have changed for the better and I think everyone’s very excited about what lies ahead.”