England’s hopes of a one-day whitewash against Australia came crashing down at the Adelaide Oval, where the seeds of a three-wicket defeat were sown in a calamitous first half-hour.
The tourists had threatened to ruin the home side’s Australia Day celebrations by sealing a fourth successive ODI victory but instead found themselves on the brink of humilation when Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins left
them reeling at eight for five in the seventh over.
Exactly 11 years ago Australia embarrassed England by winning a day/night match before the floodlights had even been turned on and without Chris Woakes’ defiant 78 this might have been even more crushing.
As it was England ground out 196 and picked up seven wickets in a nervous reply which leant heavily opener Travis Head’s 96 to make it 3-1 with a game to play.
Head proved a fitting replacement for the series’ top run-scorer Aaron Finch, absent with a hamstring injury, while Pat Cummins’ recorded career-best figures of four for 24 as Mitchell Starc rested.
Steve Smith sent England in after unexpected morning rain and watched in delight as the top order capitulated in fast forward.
Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root and Jos Buttler all banked ducks, facing a combined 20 balls for their collective nought.
Roy slashed Hazlewood’s second ball of the day to point, Bairstow nicked him behind and, in between, Cummins cleaned up Alex Hales with one that darted off the pitch.
Having forced the door ajar, Australia’s pace pair gleefully kicked it down.
Root, the man likeliest to bed down for a long stay, top-edged Cummins to fine-leg and Buttler, author of a magnificent century in Sydney, did well to get an edge on a peach from Hazlewood.
With half the team out and just eight runs scored, England’s all-time low of 86 seemed a speck in the distance.
Under considerable duress, Eoin Morgan and Moeen Ali halted the clatter of wickets and chiseled out 33 runs apiece despite never settling.
Woakes, on the other hand, made light of his team-mates’ troubles by timing his shots sweetly from the off.
He reeled off five sixes, all clubbed in the arc between long-on and long leg, but may be proudest of a classy cover drive off the leg-spin of Adam Zampa.
The all-rounder increasingly looks under-sold as a number eight, steering Moeen and Tom Curran to stands of 53 and 60 and the scoreboard to the fringes of respectability.
Woakes’ resistance ended when he chipped Andrew Tye to long-on, with Curran close behind after a promising 35 in his first ODI innings. If the final total was well short of par it was light years better than it might have been.
England performed gamely in the field, Woakes finding David Warner’s edge early, Curran pinning Cameron White lbw and Smith well held by Root at slip off the bowling off Adil Rashid.
But Australia only really needed one batsman to come off and local boy Head did the job.
Three successive boundaries in Mark Wood’s third over – two streaky shots and one commanding pull – set him up and he continued to punish anything loose.
He rushed to 50 in 55 balls but watched from the non-striker’s end as Mitch Marsh (32) and Marcus Stoinis (14) gifted their wickets.
Rashid picked up both, Marsh caught and bowled from a full toss and Stoinis top-edging a half-volley.
Head took his side to the brink but fell four short of his ton, dragging the returning Wood to mid-on.
Australia still had time for one last wobble, Cummins needlessly run out, before Tye struck the winning runs.