Eoin Morgan led England to a three-wicket victory in the fourth ODI at Headingley, where they levelled the series 2-2 and ensured the final match at Old Trafford on Sunday will be the decider. It was, in the end, a near perfectly-judged run chase. England needed 300 – that’s exactly a run a ball in 50 overs, and Morgan showed his team-mates how to pace the pursuit, with 92 off 92 balls himself.
They got there with ten balls to spare, but not without some high drama along the way, including a pair of spectacular catches from Glenn Maxwell that threatened to bring Australia back into the contest. But England’s nerve held, and fittingly David Willey clubbed the winning six down the ground off John Hastings to complete a fine day that began with him claiming three wickets in the first ten overs of the morning.
The key for England was Morgan, who compiled a 91-run partnership with Ben Stokes and then a 58-run stand with Jonny Bairstow. Morgan was in no real hurry early and brought up his half-century from 66 balls, but he started to move a little quicker as his innings wore on, and a walking smack at Hastings, down the ground for an enormous six that landed on the roof of the stand, suggested he was ready to kick on.
However, on 92 Morgan fell to the first of Maxwell’s screaming catches. Morgan cut hard off Pat Cummins and Maxwell, at backward point, dived to his right with superhuman speed and clung on one-handed. Something even more spectacular was to come when Liam Plunkett clubbed what looked destined to be a six off Cummins in the 46th over.
At deep midwicket, Maxwell jumped high to his left and controlled the ball, but felt himself falling over the boundary and tossed the ball back up. His shimmy back off the ground to reclaim the ball one-handed and land within bounds was timed to perfection; it was in effect two brilliant catches that combined to become one of the most remarkable of the modern boundary style.
But it was not enough for Australia; Moeen Ali and Willey saw England home without any further hiccups. Australia had let themselves down early with poor bowling, too many balls pitched up and not swinging, too much to drive, and with the exception of Cummins (4 for 49), too little pace to really cause England any problems.
Cummins had trapped Alex Hales for a duck in the second over and ended a brisk 36 from Jason Roy, but he had too little support from the rest of the attack. Roy and James Taylor scored at roughly a run a ball each and put on a 72-run second-wicket stand that set the chase going in fine style, and both men were strong when driving.
Roy made 36 off 33 balls and Taylor fell for 41 off 42 when he tickled Marsh down the leg side and was smartly caught by a diving Matthew Wade. Marsh picked up a second wicket when he yorked Stokes for 41 off 54 deliveries, and Maxwell had Bairstow caught behind off the glove for 31 off 27, but all those contributions for England combined into a better than a run-a-ball chase.
Australia were left to rue their inability to capitalise on the strong platform constructed by Maxwell and George Bailey through the middle of their innings. Willey had struck three times in the first 10 overs to put England on top, but Maxwell and Bailey then combined for a 137-run partnership and they moved the score along to 167 for 3 in the 30th over.
From there, a total in the mid-300s seemed feasible. But Maxwell departed, Mitchell Marsh failed to find a boundary in his 24-ball stay, Bailey fell, Marcus Stoinis failed on debut and it looked like Australia might struggle to even reach the mid-200s. Some late power hitting from Wade and Hastings split the difference, and 299 for 7 seemed near enough to a par total.
Wade and Hastings clubbed 77 in the final six overs as England’s fast men failed to find the yorker length. It was the second time in the series that Wade had rescued Australia in the first innings with some late striking. Not all of his shots went where he wanted – in particular one attempted ramp that skewed off the edge and flew over third man for four – but he was effective.
Wade crunched three sixes in a 26-ball 50 not out, and Hastings cleared the boundary twice in his unbeaten 34 off 26 balls. England failed to take a wicket after the 42nd over, when Stoinis limply reverse-swept Moeen to short third man for 4. It was a strange debut for Stoinis, a batting allrounder who found himself in at No.8 and then bowled only four overs of medium pace.
Another man who was in for his first game of the series was Willey, who found some swing early and caused all sorts of problems for Australia’s top order after Steven Smith chose to bat. He had Joe Burns chopping on for 2, Smith lbw for 5 and Aaron Finch caught behind for 15, and at 30 for 3 Australia were in some real bother.
But Maxwell led the rebuild, and did it fast. He raced to a 42-ball half-century, brought up with a six clubbed over midwicket off an Adil Rashid full toss, and then pulled the next ball from Rashid for another six in the same direction. The reverse sweep, often a productive shot for Maxwell, ended up bringing his downfall when he missed the attempt off Moeen and was bowled for 85 off 64 balls.
Moeen was one of the most impressive of England’s bowlers and finished with 2 for 40 from his 10 overs, adjusting his length well when the Australians used their feet. By contrast, Rashid had a poor day, struggling to find his rhythm, and ended up leaking 63 from his 10 overs, including 17 off the one that brought Maxwell his half-century.
Bailey had been the quieter partner in the union with Maxwell, finding the gaps and rotating the strike, and his fifty came from his 64th delivery. He also cleared the boundary, with a thump back down the ground off Rashid, but once Maxwell was gone the air went out of Australia’s innings, moreso when Marsh holed out for 17 off Plunkett.
Two balls later, Bailey sent Plunkett a return catch for 75 off 110 balls, and Australia’s decline continued. They will hope it does not continue further when they return to Manchester on Sunday.