Batting first on a rather placid wicket at Kia Oval, Australia were 154 for 5 in 34 overs. The statistics suggested that going at 5-an over would’ve taken them to 250. Instead, Australia managed 214, somehow. England managed the chase comfortably in the 44th over, despite losing a flurry of wickets in the lower order.
Not a great game if you were an Australia fan
In an age supported so intricately by tiniest of stat, die-hard fans wonder why can’t performances actually take a cue from the numbers.
Yet, if one would begin to fret over the numbers reflecting on Australia’s scorecard, then honestly, it would do a great injustice to Glenn Maxwell’s effort. The “Big Show” contributed 62 of Australia’s meagre total.
But if there was the one positive that Tim Paine’s side could take away, then it would have to be Aston Agar’s batting. Usually, on most days, Google searches would augur well for the case of Agar’s bowling. Yet, in Australia’s 3-wicket loss to England, it was the slow left-arm orthodox bowler’s 40 that mattered most.
Tim Paine’d’ by an average batting effort
It really didn’t matter that while attempting to stop an England powered by Morgan and Root, Agar went at 5.6 an over. Australia would much rather thank him for scoring the 40 runs that were far heavier in weight of contribution than what the top three managed.
You know you are in instant trouble when in an ODI game against England’s Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett- not a force like an Anderson and Broad but undeniably important- your top order collapses inside 11 overs. At 52, Australia had lost Shaun Marsh, contributing a decent 24. But the problem was that Travis Head- usually a lower-order batsman- and Aaron Finch- the mighty hitter- could contribute 19 and 5 respectively.
This, in addition to Shaun Marsh’s wicket, would mean that Australia’s middle order was in the play inside 15 overs. We aren’t in an age where a Steven Waugh, Adam Gilchrist or Damien Martyn would rescue a struggling side during the crucial middle overs.
This is the era of an embattled Australia, trying new combinations (in the absences of Smith, Warner) to try to make a game out of a contest. So, arguably, they had the weaker hand in the contest. The combined ODI experience of 109 games. Do not be assured of it being a great figure.
Of these 109 games’ experience, Maxwell alone has 82 ODI appearances against his name. The task, therefore, for a Tim Paine- 12 of 19- and, Stoinis- 22 off 32- was always going to be that tough. This, wasn’t Australia to drive home some breathing space of familiarity.
It wasn’t that each wicket that England bowlers collected was a stunning exhibition of ruthless bowling, some strokes offered by Australian batsmen indicated their self-inflicted misery.
Maxwell- Agar take control
Why would Shaun Marsh offer a drive to a fuller pitched delivery minus footwork was anybody’s guess? Not that Moeen Ali complained. His captain, Tim Paine, despite being at the crease when Maxwell was around thought it would make sense to try a reverse sweep with the fielder inside the circle.
But it wasn’t that the batting completely floundered. After Stoinis departed, yet again exhibiting a raw talent for timing the ball and playing some ludicrous attacking strokes, Australia were on their way to recovery. A strong 82-run stand for the sixth wicket from nearly 17 overs meant they’d go to 174 without losing another wicket. Maxwell would bring up his 16th ODI fifty and would often produce a dead end of the bat to Ali and Rashid- responsible for finishing half of Australia’s team.
And in here lay Australia’s problems that they’d do well to sort out soon.
There would be no batsmen post the last recognised pair of Maxwell-Agar.
The ones before had added not even 90 runs together. For a sheer lack of runs on the board, Australia lost to England at the Kia Oval.
But even then, the audiences anticipating a close finish and cherishing the 7 wickets that Aussie bowlers clinched arguably serving the best appetizer for the crowds meant that Stanlake, Neser and Richardson would be all over England’s top order.
This made for some newspaper-style reading in the chase.
Another top-order collapse in the First ODI itself
Roy, Bairstow and Hales, contributed 33, thanks largely to Bairstow’s mini pandemic- 28 off 23, 6 glorious fours, each brilliant like a dazzling shot of Buckingham Palace against the sun.
There was some lateral movement on offer and tall-man Stanlake, the mightiest cricketer on the field at 2.04 meters capitalising on it well.
Thanks largely to Michael Neser, who ran a dream debut, picking a 2-for, including that of dangerman Hales first up and an explosive Ali later, Australia were able to keep England in check.
Morgan spoils Neser’s dream debut
But there was hardly anything that Australia could do to avert a breathtakingly beautiful exhibition of authoritative English batting.
Eoin Morgan, in his 69, picked his 36th fifty in front of enchanted fans that’d achieved their money’s worth watching Joe Root strike a 50, and with that England launching a match-winning partnership for 116 runs (fourth wicket) bringing curtains on Australia’s modest ask.