• England v Australia, 5th ODI, Ageas Bowl

Watson leads Australia to winning finish

The Report by Andrew McGlashan at the Ageas Bowl
September 16, 2013 « Live County Championship coverage | Chartbeat test »

Australia 298 (Watson 143, Clarke 75, Stokes 5-61) beat England 249 (Bopara 62, Faulkner 3-38) by 49 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Shane Watson led Australia's innings with an 87-ball century © Getty Images
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As in the Ashes, Shane Watson saved his best until last to enable Australia to end their almost four-month stay in England with silverware as they wrapped up the NatWest Series with a convincing 49-run victory. Watson's 143 provided nearly half of Australia's total and his stand of 163 with Michael Clarke, who battled through with his troublesome back, was the defining period of the match and series.

England's chase only ignited when Ravi Bopara and Jos Buttler were adding 92 in 13 overs; perhaps it was the autumnal chill which descended and left spectators huddle up in jacks that prevented an early spark. But by then it was a monumental task, even for Buttler's nerves of steel. Kevin Pietersen was run out in the third over and any remnants of a chance, however slim, disappeared when Eoin Morgan departed straight after the halfway mark of the innings.

Australia were clearly the better team over the three-and-a-bit ODIs that the weather allowed and this trophy, although low down in the priority list when they arrived in late May, will be some solace for Darren Lehmann - who wasn't even in charge when the Champions Trophy squad landed at Heathrow. Australia really have been here that long.

That is not to say there are no benefits England can take, and in this match it was the bowling of Ben Stokes and debutant Chris Jordan - who replaced the injured Steven Finn - as they shared eight wickets. Stokes finished with 5 for 61 having struck early in the innings and then during Australia's collapse of 7 for 87. Both young pace bowlers were sharp, hitting 90mph, and held their nerve against flashing blades.

As in Cardiff, Australia struggled at the top and tail of their innings but this time the central plank provided by Watson and Clarke was so dominant it made a crucial difference. It appeared a rain break in the 10th over might derail their innings when, on resumption, Stokes struck twice in consecutive balls to leave Australia 48 for 3. But England's inexperienced attack could not keep up the pressure as Clarke and Watson feasted on some wayward bowling during their rapid partnership.

Watson reached his eighth one-day hundred from 87 balls in a muscular display of hitting and then latched on to Joe Root's sixth over, which cost 28, the most expensive by an England bowler in ODIs, including three massive leg-side sixes. He was threatening his best score against England - an unbeaten 161 at the MCG in 2011 - but edged behind to give Stokes his fourth wicket.

Stokes claimed his fifth two balls later when Mitchell Johnson lobbed back a return catch and along with Jordan and Boyd Rankin, the latter superbly economical on another good batting pitch, provided a positive glimpse at some of England's depth. Jordan had managed to open his wicket tally in his second over - after being driven twice by Aaron Finch in his first - when he beat Phillip Hughes for pace and the left-hander top-edged to midwicket.

Jordan returned in the batting Powerplay, taken early by Clarke in the 29th over, with Australia at the peak of their scoring rate and removed the Australia captain when he clubbed to mid-off for 74 five balls after Rankin had dropped him in the same position. Clarke had not been convincing at the start of his innings, as England tested out his back with the expected short-pitched attack, but was given early scoring opportunities to get his innings underway and was rarely under a run-a-ball. His straight drive for six off Stokes stood out.

The problem for England was that the combined 10 overs of spin from Root and James Tredwell went for 96; Watson immediately aimed Tredwell over midwicket in a four-over spell that proved his only one of the day. If other sides have been taking notes, Tredwell will need to "batten down the hatches", as he put it the other day, in future series.

Overs 21-30 of Australia's brought 93 runs - a scoring rate considered impressive for the final 10 of an innings - and at 202 for 3 after 30 overs anything seemed possible, but a combination of some laziness from them and resilience from England gave the final 20 overs a very different outcome, to the extent that Australia did not use up their final five deliveries.

Australia rued their late collapse in Cardiff, but it never had the feel of a repeat here. The Pietersen-Michael Carberry opening partnership has not hit it off in this series and for the second time it ended through a breakdown in communication. Pietersen was beaten but Matthew Wade could not take the ball cleanly and it bobbled to short fine-leg. Carberry started to make his way up the pitch, but only made a positive call a few seconds later, by when there was not enough time for Pietersen to make his ground.

Carberry's hometown innings - and perhaps, even, his last for England - was ended by the DRS after Rob Bailey had turned down an appeal from James Faulkner. Joe Root, who laboured for his 21, dragged on against the quick and thrifty Johnson when playing without footwork and most shambolically Luke Wright - a last-minute replacement for Jonathan Trott, who suffered a back spasm - was run out when he did not even attempt to ground his bat going for a sharp single.

Adam Voges gained an lbw decision against Bopara with his first ball, only for DRS to show it was sliding past leg stump, but he claimed the key wicket of Morgan when the England captain was drawn out of his crease and Wade did not add to his list of errors.

For a while, as Buttler and Bopara started picking off boundaries at will, a grandstand finish was not out of the question until Faulkner, from round the wicket, cleaned up Buttler. Seven balls later Bopara rifled a catch to cover off Johnson's first ball back to give him his 200th ODI wicket. That was that, barring the finishing touches, but for anyone who is feeling misty-eyed at the end of England-Australia contests, don't worry: it all starts again in 66 days.

Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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