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England engineered an outstanding all-round display for the second game running to win their first ODI against the Aussies at the Oval since 1997 and with it gain a crucial 2-0 lead in the 5 match Natwest ODI series. In pursuit of a challenging 252, the Poms romped home with ease with more than 3 overs to spare. The bed rock of England's success was a rock-solid 90 run alliance between Ian Bell (75) and Ravi Bopara (82). While Bell continued his resurgent return to ODI squad following his Man of the Series winning performance versus the West Indies, Bopara enhanced his reputation as a dependable middle order batsman, thus making a strong case for his inclusion in the Test squad. Bopara's innings was a classic example of flawless construction of a chase. Earlier in the day, the English bowlers limited the visitors to 251-7. Tim Bresnan was the pick of the bowlers with a return of 2-50. Finn, Broad, Bopara and Swann claimed a wicket each. Shane Watson (who lived a rather charmed life) and George Bailey hit contrasting fifties to arrest the middle overs meltdown and guide Australia to a fighting total that eventually turned out to be insufficient.
England, with a spring in their step after opening their Ashes preparatory spar with a significant win at Lord's, collided with their oldest rival in the second ODI at the Oval on a pleasant Sunday morning. The toss of the coin went Australia's way and Michael Clarke sans any hesitation, elected to bat first on what appeared to be a hard, flat deck. Whist the Aussies called for two edits, England made the lone change. For the hosts, Jade Dernbach replaced James Anderson, who picked up a groin strain on Friday. The early news from the Oval was that teenage sensation, Pat Cummins had been ruled out of the remainder of the tour because of a severe side strain. Cummins' injury paved way for Mitchell Johnson to break into the Playing XI. Promising middle order batsman, Peter Forrest came in for Steve Smith, resulting in a reshuffle of the Aussie batting order.
Jade Dernbach accompanied by Steve Finn bowled consistently in the corridor of uncertainty to tease the Australian openers. The sideways movement kept both bowlers very much interested. The local boy Dernbach, who knows these conditions like the back of his hand, exhibited Anderson-like precision. Benefiting from the pressure created at the other end, Finn had the uncharacteristically tentative Warner caught at square leg for a sluggish 10 in the 5th over. A rare mistake from the Poms propped up when Jonathan Trott dropped Shane Watson in the following over. Cashing in, Watto hit a few boundaries and infused some positivity into the Australian innings. The new man, Peter Forrest batted with caution and circumspection to safely negotiate the new ball(s).
Unfortunately, the heavens opened up and mild rains interrupted proceedings. At that stage of the contest the scorecard read 51-1 in 11.2 overs.
Following a brief 30 minute delay, play resumed. The break did Cook and his comrades a world of good as Forrest (12) perished caught behind down the leg side, attempting to pull the ball fine. Craig Kieswetter, flying to his left, took a razor-sharp catch to hand Stuart Broad his first wicket of the day. However, Watson peppering the extra-cover fence, continued to score at a brisk pace. Bresnan, spraying the ball around, guaranteed easy runs.
The DRS proved its worth again with Watson's successful review saw him survive a close lbw appeal. It would be an understatement to say cutting edge technology has improved the standard of decision making.
The ace all-rounder, notched up his 50 from an even number of balls via an agricultural slog past mid-wicket. Moments later, occasional medium-pacer, Ravi Bopara caused Clarke (10) to nick one to the keeper. Spin wizard, Graeme Swann, entering the fray in the 21st over gave little away. Cook's attacking field set up did not help Australia's cause either. George Bailey put his head down and nudged the ball around into the vacant spaces.
Australia, placed at 124-3 in 30 overs were in desperate need of productive overs in order to post a healthy total.
The tag team of Bopara and Swann stifled the Aussies thanks to a volley of dots. The mounting tension then got the better of Watson, who holed out in the deep for 66. Finally, Bailey got a move on, tickling Swann for a delicate boundary, the first in 12 overs. Bailey loosened the shackles further aided by a couple of powerful drives down the ground. In the absence of brother Michael, Australia expected a lot from David Hussey. The 34 year old responded well with 2 fours from the final over of the batting powerplay. The duo hit 36 runs in the batting powerplay period to put the Australia back on track.
Bailey paraded to his half-century by virtue of a convincing cover drive in the 42nd over. The sprightly 78 run association concluded when Finn pulled a rabbit out of his hat to run-out Hussey (29) off his own bowling. This brought hard-hitting keeper-batsman, Mattew Wade to join forces with the well-set Bailey. Bailey, lusting for the jugular, melded timing with aggression to perfection. He more than made up for his shaky start. Wade wasted no time and announced himself with a slice through point for four. The next over, big burly Bresnan masterminded a double strike to jolt the guests. Bailey was the first to depart, cleaned bowled by a full reverse-swinging killer ball. Wade (6) followed suit, miscuing the 'ramp-shot'. Lee (20*) and Johnson (8*) added 28 runs in 19 balls to take the Aussies to a competent 251-7.
Sadly, rain returned to postpone England's reply. The action finally got underway at 3:40 local time. The new ball operators, Lee and Mitchell Johnson, playing his first ODI since October, seemed every bit wayward. Johnson donated 3 no-balls in his first two overs. He paid the penalty for being ill-disciplined as 2 out of the 3 freebies raced to the fence. Lee, meanwhile graciously chucked down 5 wides. One could say that the in-form English openers were enjoying the Aussie hospitality. In a strategy to take pace off the ball, Clarke threw the ball over to Xavier Doherty as early as the 5th over. Captain Cook, refusing to let the left arm spinner settle down, despatched his first delivery through the covers. Soon after, Clint McKay trapped Cook (18) plumb in front of the wicket to lift the spirits in the Aussie camp. Ian Bell, timing the ball with creamy elegance, consolidated the early advantage. Against the run of play, Trott (17) inside-edged Watson back onto his stumps to leave the match evenly poised at 81-2 in 15 overs.
The tourists tightened things up in the bowling powerplay. The persevering McKay, in particular, was right on the money. Bell and Bopara though did the smart thing by rotating the strike admirably besides finding the odd boundary. Bell's wide array of shots were on display, not just the cut, pull and drive. The Warwickshire warrior reached his fifty in style with a slog-sweep over mid-wicket in the 23rd over. England were toddling along smoothly with the two B's leading the way. Australia's slim chances began to fade away with the Poms firmly in the driver's seat at 154-2 in 30 overs.
Clarke finally broke the impact 90 run partnership himself, bowling Bell for a superbly compiled 75.The last throw of the dice producing the desired result.
The wristy Ravi Bopara carried on the excellent work to take charge of the innings. Eoin Morgan, game one hero, with a healthy helping of cheek and imaginative stroke-play made optimal use of the scoring opportunities. The Aussies were praying for another wicket, infact a bunch of them to spark off something remarkable. At 214-3 in 40 overs, Cook's men were coasting towards the finish line.
Bopara and Morgan cut loose and hastened Australia's downfall. Unfortunately, Bopara (82) was denied that deserving winning moment by Lee's direct hit. Morgan completed the formalities in the 46th over with a bottom edged cut down to fine leg.
England, who have won eight consecutive matches have all their bases covered. The hosts will be aiming to wrap up the series when the two teams collide in the third ODI at Brimingham on Wednesday, July 4. The Aussies will have to improve significantly to bounce back into a series that is fast slipping out of their grasp.
England: A Cook(c), I Bell, J Trott, R Bopara, E Morgan, C Kieswetter(wk), T Bresnan, S Broad, G Swann, S Finn, J Dernbach
Australia: S Watson, D Warner, G Bailey, M Clarke(c), P Forrest D Hussey, M Wade(wk), B Lee, M Johnson, C McKay, X Doherty
Australia 251-7( 50 overs, 5.02 rpo)
S Watson 66(80) T Bresnan 2-50
G Bailey 65(86) R Bopara 1-16
England 252-4(45.4 overs, 5.51 rpo)
R Bopara 82(85) M Clarke 1-13
I Bell 75(113) S Watson 1-34
England won by 6 wickets
File Photograph Copyright: ICC World T20
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