Coming into this game, with England 3-0 down with four games to go in the series, opinion was divided as to how they should approach the match.
One school of thought held that to lose a series heavily so soon before the World Cup would be a disaster, therefore England should play their strongest side at all times and have done with it. The other school took the view that many of the England players were looking jaded after approaching four months of non-stop cricket, that it made sense to give them a break before going to India and instead use the opportunity to find out what some of the younger players were made of.
Of course, that second opinion was never going to hold sway. Not only do this side want to win every game at all costs, there are also the practical difficulties such as the potential reserve players being en route to the Caribbean for the England Lions tour out there, and there being no obvious captain if you leave all of the experienced players out of the side.
For this game, England welcomed James Anderson back from what was effectively paternity leave and Kevin Pietersen back from injury. Anderson, in particular, made a huge difference, adding much needed control to the early overs of the innings when England fielded and picking up a sharp return catch to boot.
Before Anderson could take the field, though, it was the turn of two other players in the spotlight. Matt Prior picked up two consecutive ducks when recalled to open the innings in this series, but this time he did everything that was asked of him, bludgeoning 67 from just 58 balls. After Strauss fell early, it was Jonathan Trott who kept him company.
Many will argue that Pietersen should be batting at three and Trott four in this form of the game, but when an early wicket goes down Trott is fast becoming the right man for the job. His unbeaten 84 was the one bright spark of the last game and here he ground his way to a maiden one day hundred before being bowled by a ball from David Hussey which turned a long way.
There were useful contributions throughout the England innings, none more so than a run a ball 27 from Paul Collingwood at the end that was only overshadowed by a brutal 39 from Michael Yardy to see England to a competitive—but nothing more—299-8.
That was where Anderson came into his own. Australian openers Shane Watson and Brad Haddin were stifled of the runs that they have become used to getting from England's opening attack, but here Anderson, Ajmal Shehzad and Chris Tremlett pinned them back and then reduced them to 33-2.
Watson did put on a fifty partnership with Michael Clarke, but the Aussie skipper is so out of form that, in doing so, they fell well below the run rate. An inspired decision by Strauss to bring the gentle medium pace of Trott and Collingwood into the attack paid dividends when Collingwood put Clarke out of his misery and then Trott, who had never taken a wicket in one day international cricket, picked up both Cameron White and Hussey. Inbetween, Shehzad tempted Watson to edge a very wide ball, a shot that produced an audible expletive from the batsman.
With the game beyond them, Steve Smith and Brett Lee were able to throw the bat with abandon at the end, enhancing their own averages and ruining a few bowling ones in the process. By that time, though, England had their foot off the pedal and the 21-run margin of victory rather flatters the Australians.
The series now moves on to Brisbane and England are still in there, fighting. Whose idea was it to give up on this series anyway?
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