Australia put their chasing woes behind them to win a thrilling final men’s international of the English summer and subject the world champions to their first home ODI series defeat in five years.
Centurions Glenn Maxwell (108 from 90 balls) and Alex Carey (106) put on 212 for the sixth wicket to take Australia to the brink of a victory that appeared so unlikely when they came together at 73 for five, chasing 303. Both men fell with the finish line in sight but, with 10 required from the final over from Adil Rashid (a brave piece of captaincy from Eoin Morgan), Mitchell Starc’s giant six sent the game Australia’s way. They got home with two ball spare to take the series.
This brilliant match provided a fitting finale to what has been a mighty competitive six-match tour between these great rivals, and a magnificent summer all round. There has barely been a dull game, and this was among the best of the lot.
At 73 for five, having batted haplessly, Australia looked dead, especially given their failures to chase far more simple positions in the opening T20 and last ODI. But England had looked in a very bad way indeed when they lost wickets to the very first two balls of the game only to be saved by a fine hundred from Jonny Bairstow. It was a thrilling, topsy-turvy game.
Maxwell was the star of the show, picking off the short legside boundary (which was also with the wind), with greater ease than anyone else. He peppered that for six of his seven maximums, including the one that took him to his second ODI century. Carey used it to good effect in making his first international hundred, too.
England had their chances to dismiss them sooner. Carey was caught at third man on nine off a Jofra Archer no-ball, which would have left them six down for under 100. And Maxwell was dropped by Jos Buttler off Adil Rashid on nine. England were sloppy thereafter, but Maxwell’s belligerence and Carey’s calculation were just superb.
Given their start to the match, England were in a mighty fine position when those two came together. After two balls, they were two wickets down with Jason Roy then Joe Root both going for golden ducks to Starc.
England had won the toss or the third time in the series and opted to bat on a fresh, flat-looking pitch, with one particularly short boundary and a strong wind howling towards it, making this an even more horrible start. 300 seemed par, but was a long way off without their explosive opener and anchor.
Bairstow and Eoin Morgan sparked a fightback, taking Australia on to reach 67 by the end of the powerplay. Both men played audacious strokes, with Bairstow crunching Pat Cummins for a flat six.
Aaron Finch turned to Adam Zampa, who already had seven wickets in what had been a superb series. He dismissed Morgan, trying to drive over mid-off, immediately, then Buttler a few tight overs later. Buttler just chipped tamely to cover.
Bairstow and Sam Billings set about a careful rebuild against some impressive bowling. It was not until the over when their 50 partnership came up that risks began to be taken, with Billings reverse-sweeping Glenn Maxwell for four. He nailed Mitchell Starc for a pair of sixes, slapped then ramped, and got after Zampa through the legside too.
Having reached his fifty shortly before Bairstow brought up his century with a gorgeous pickup six off Cummins, Billings took one risk too many. His top-edged reverse-sweep gave Zampa his 10th wicket of the series.
When Bairstow’s brilliant innings, his 10th hundred in three years opening in ODIs, came to an end when a Cummins off-cutter jagged back to bowl him in the 41st over, it was left to the tail once more.
Led by Woakes, 83 runs were added in 59 balls after Bairstow’s wicket. Woakes finished with an unbeaten 53, including some extraordinary strokes at the death.
Woakes picked up where he left off as Australia’s chase got off to a poor start, in two phases. First, there were Woakes’ wickets in the powerplay, with Aaron Finch pinned in front by a nip-backer and Marcus Stoinis chipped horribly to midwicket. Root replaced Woakes for a speculative bowl and bowled David Warner, then had Mitch Marsh caught behind off bat and pad.
Australia looked fried, especially when Carey ran Marnus Labuschagne out – due to some strong work from Billings – and when he appeared to have been caught at third man off Archer. Carey and Maxwell took the reprieve, and ran.