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Australia beat England in the decider

Ausralia v/s England

Ausralia lead by 2-1

Cavalier Adam Gilchrist shows his batting abilities in the final

Australia won the deciding one-day international against England by eight wickets at The Oval here Tuesday to take the three-match series 2-1.

Set 229 to win, the world champions cruised to their target with more than 15 overs to spare.

Adam Gilchrist, scoring his first one-day international hundred in over a year, finished on 121 not out and Damien Martyn was unbeaten on 24.

Gilchrist faced just 101 balls with two sixes and 17 fours.

A cavalier Adam Gilchrist century and a return to bowling form from Jason Gillespie helped Australia to a comfortable victory in the third and final Natwest Challenge match at The Oval yesterday. Chasing England’s modest 228 the tourists passed the victory mark with eight wickets in hand and more than 15 overs to spare.

Australia won the series 2-1, completing a clean sweep of both one-day international tournaments after an embarrassing start to the tour that included losses to county side Somerset and international minnows Bangladesh. As at Lord’s, however, the Australians were back to their intimidating best and prevented England from obtaining any foothold in the match.

Adam Gilchrist was named man of the match for his 121 not out, made from just 101 deliveries and including 17 punishing fours and two sixes. Ricky Ponting, who made 43 and added 94 for the second wicket with Gilchrist, was awarded man of the series honours.

The extended one-day carnival now winds up and attention moves to the first Test match, commencing next Thursday at Lord’s. Their domination of England in the last two matches of the Natwest Challenge will be a big fillip for the tourists, who have a three-day tour match at Leicestershire before the Ashes campaign begins.

At The Oval, Ricky Ponting again called correctly and elected to bowl, a critical factor given the impact of the toss so far in this series and the newly-introduced ‘supersub’ rules. England nominated Vikram Solanki as their supersub, while Australia – with Matthew Hayden fit and playing – demoted Simon Katich to that role.

The Australian bowlers were again miserly and restricted England to 7/228, a score that was below par on a flat and lifeless Oval deck.

McGrath and Lee tied down England’s top order, their pressure inviting excessive caution, error and poor shot selection. Trescothick utilised a dozen balls without scoring before Lee tempted him to slash and top-edge to Kasprowicz at third-man. At the other end McGrath pinned down the English batsmen with four impeccable maidens. His fifth over was equally frugal and should have produced a wicket after Michael Vaughan lofted to Gillespie at fine leg, however the South Australian’s abysmal tour seemed to continue as he grassed a straight-forward chance.

McGrath was livid but the error didn’t cost Australia greatly, Vaughan (15 from 30) falling victim to an accurate throw from Ricky Ponting. Four overs later Strauss, after showing glimpses of good form, edged Kasprowicz through to Gilchrist, leaving England treacherously placed at 3/61 from 16.3 overs. Kasprowicz added to their woes by removing Flintoff, again caught behind, just 13 runs later.

The rescue mission yet again fell to Kevin Pietersen and Collingwood. They started in similar vein to recent comebacks, but the introduction of Gillespie was the telling factor. With Pietersen more watchful than usual, Gillespie maintained a more difficult line and length and was able to restrict both boundary balls and opportunities for singles. His improvement paid off when Collingwood squirted a full delivery to cover to give Gillespie just his second one-day wicket against England on this tour, an event openly celebrated as his colleagues rushed to congratulate him.

Pietersen lost his next partner, Geraint Jones, very quickly to leave the home side tottering on disaster at 6/93, before Michael Vaughan made a telling decision – he called in supersub batsman Solanki and cast opening bowler Simon Jones into spectatordom. It was a move that helped England secure a respectable target but at the significant cost of a key bowler.

With Pietersen batting intelligently and utilising a controlled mix of aggression, and Solanki batting solidly, English pushed through to a more admirable 6/186 before a clever Gillespie slower ball found its way through Pietersen’s defence. He departed with 74 runs to his name, from 84 deliveries and with eight fours and two sixes, the last an amazing flat-batted swat from a Gillespie bouncer that Pietersen had actually charged at.

Solanki passed his half-century and with help from an adventurous Ashley Giles, England went through to 7/228 at the luncheon break. It was below the average one-day international score of 237 at The Oval, though it was much closer than it could have been.

Gillespie finished with 3/44 from his ten overs, figures that reflect his improvement in technique and direction, while Kasprowicz bowled well to return 2/46. Lee and McGrath enjoyed less success in terms of wickets but were equally miserly.

The home team’s own new-ball attack was unable to mimic the frugality of the Australian bowlers, Adam Gilchrist and Matthew Hayden keen to disrupt their line and rhythm from the outset.

Gilchrist was particularly fierce on anything full, driving with relish at Gough and Harmison. He struck three consecutive boundaries from the Yorkshireman’s second over, prompting Vaughan to replace him at the bowling crease with Flintoff. The following over from Harmison, however, was treated with even more disdain, yielding 16 runs, all in boundaries.

The pair added 91 before the first loss, as Gough returned and invited Hayden (31 from 47 balls) to wave outside off stump. He edged through to Geraint Jones, registering yet another score that was not a success but not quite a failure. Gough’s second set of two overs was almost as expensive as his first, however, and his days as an England player must be all but numbered. In retrospect it was a poor decision to retain Gough and sub out Simon Jones.

Ponting joined Gilchrist at the crease and the two saw the score through to 1/185 in better than even time, before Ponting advanced to Giles and edged onto his pad, Jones nabbing the rebound and stumping the Australian captain (43 from 44 balls).

Damien Martyn joined Gilchrist and the pair seemed keen to end the game as quickly as possible, Martyn being particularly severe on Steve Harmison, who conceded 81 from 9.5 overs. Hopefully for England this won’t dent his confidence leading into the Ashes.

Victory came from the penultimate ball of the 35th over, a Martyn pull shot for four from a Harmison no-ball. Australia had eight wickets in hand including that of supersub Katich who had replaced McGrath at the start of the innings, though this was academic.

It was a masterful performance by Australia in both its Natwest Challenge wins, but also a relief, something apparent in the unusually vigorous celebrations of Gilchrist after he reached his century and also in Ponting’s expression post-match.

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