Michael Clarke guides Aussies to record chase
Australian captain Michael Clarke shepherded his side to their greatest ever one day international run-chase, a thrilling pursuit of England’s daunting 6-333 at the SCG.
Bursting into life after a summer of poor batting and harsh criticism, Clarke (82, 70 balls) played his finest innings of the series to reel in the target against an admittedly weak England attack lacking Tim Bresnan, Chris Tremlett, Ajmal Shahzad and Graeme Swann.
Only eight runs were needed from as many balls when Clarke was run out by England centurion Jonathan Trott’s flat return from the deep, but John Hastings (7no) and Brett Lee (2no) collected the remainder with two wickets and four balls to spare.
Shane Watson (51), Callum Ferguson (46), the promoted Mitchell Johnson (57) and David Hussey (38) all played their part to keep pace, though Steve Smith was added to a lengthy injury list with a hip strain.
Of England’s bowlers only Steven Finn (2-51) and Michael Yardy (1-47) maintained any sort of pressure, and it was startling to see the usually parsimonious Jimmy Anderson (1-91) knocked around so freely.
Watched by a small but expectant crowd of 19,479, the Australians were given exactly the kind of rollicking start they required by Watson, whose rate of progress was exceptional even by Twenty20 standards as he crashed eight boundaries in a 34-ball 51.
By the time Watson fell, swinging Yardy to short midwicket, 87 runs had been swashbuckled from the first 12 overs, and the pressure of the scoreboard reduced.
In the sort of lateral move Clarke is becoming known for, Johnson was promoted to No.4 and responded with an innings of occasional bluster but mainly a balance of power and control more common among batsmen than pinch-hitters.
There was one curious episode involving Matt Prior and an apparent appeal for bowled even though it was Prior’s gloves that had disturbed the bails, but otherwise Johnson sailed smoothly to his half century.
At the other end the recalled Ferguson was poise personified while matching his handsome career average, and his dismissal was a surprise.
A mixed up run out was not the best way to go, but the partnership meant that when Johnson followed, stumped on the charge against Kevin Pietersen, Clarke and White had a quite manageable task ahead of them in conditions that remained friendly.
They added 30 together before White hooked Finn to deep square leg, maintaining his indifferent vein of form across the series, but with 10 overs remaining only 84 were needed.
Clarke and Hussey set about their task with tremendous purpose, adding 90 runs in 71 balls against some ragged bowling.
Hussey edged behind with 20 still needed, but the major work had by then been done.
Trott (137, 126 balls, 11 fours) earlier soared to a second century of the series and turned it into his highest one day tally, with support from captain Andrew Strauss (63) and Ian Bell (45).
Together they posted England’s highest limited overs total in Australia, surpassing the 302 made against Sri Lanka at Adelaide in 1999 – a match they also lost.
Australia’s bowlers met with harsh treatment, though Shaun Tait (2-59) bowled presentably on his return from a muscle strain.
Though granted a runner as he battled cramp, Trott was later able to bowl.
Paul Collingwood could not, however, after suffering a twinge in his back while batting.
Australia’s previous best chase was the 327 they gobbled up against South Africa at St George’s Park in 2002.
Clarke saluted his side and said their successful chase had been founded on a series of calculated gambles.
“It’s a nice feeling, obviously 330 was going to be a tough ask, we had to take a few risks and Mitch was probably one of those to go up the order in the powerplay,” he said.
“The boys are stoked, it’s a huge win for us and we can take a lot of confidence from that run chase going into the World Cup.
“I think there’s going to be some pretty big scores, some pretty flat wickets similar to that, I think you’re going to have to get used to chasing some big totals.”
However he confirmed that Smith had suffered a muscle strain and would be out of the final match, at Perth on Sunday.© AAP 2013