If Australia wanted to find out how much they would miss the assured presence of Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey out in the middle, they only had to look back at their batting performance against England at Edgbaston on Saturday. In an era where chasing anything under 300 in ODIs has become a breeze, they struggled to come up with a competent batting performance, as a result of which their grasp on the Champions Trophy has definitely lost a big of grip. It was a performance that reiterated they are no longer the top team in the world.
If the lack of experience in the top and middle order wasn’t haunting enough, Australia also had the miss of the services of their injured skipper Michael Clarke in this game, which only made matters worse for them. Chasing a challenging total, they needed a good start from their openers, but they were completely tied down. While England did bowl exceedingly well, the lack of aggression shown by David Warner and Shane Watson was rather surprising. Both thrive on attacking stroke play, but neither could get their act together against England. It was a thoroughly disappointing show by both.
Australia could still have got home had they put together one substantial partnership. Instead, their batsmen were guilty of losing wickets after getting starts. Phillip Hughes and Adam Voges got their eye in, but when the time came to move on to bigger things, they were heading back to the pavilion. The rest of the batting just crumbed under pressure. Stand-in skipper George Bailey did try his best to rescue the damage with a subtle half-century, but Australia had fallen way behind by then. As for James Faulkner’s attacking innings, it was merely of entertainment value.
While the lack of firepower was evident in Australia’s overall performance, it must also be said that England’s professional effort on Saturday typified their improvement in the one-day format. Their bowling on the day was particularly high class. After Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan did the early damage, the experienced James Anderson led from the front to destroy the lower-order and accelerate Australia’s downfall. At the same time, the all-round contribution from the English bowlers was most impressive. Everyone who rolled their arm over had something to show in the wickets column – this included part-timers Joe Root and Ravi Bopara.
Earlier in the day, England were reasonably good with the bat. Like Australia even a few of their batsmen got starts and did not capitalise on the same. The difference here though was that one batsman went on register a big score, which meant the other knocks fitted in nicely as supporting acts. Ian Bell, who has been unpredictable always, was rock solid against the Aussies, and played the key role in England feeling comfortable. While skipper Alastair Cook and Jonathan Trott played decent cameos, the unbeaten rescue act by Bopara at the end of the innings equally crucial. It did not give England a match-winning score, but against the feeble Aussie batting line-up, it was more than enough.
--By A Cricket Analyst