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Friday, September 25, 2009

England escape one-day whitewash

England avoided a 7-0 one-day series whitewash with a four-wicket win over Australia at the Riverside.

Graeme Swann was England's star performer, taking 5-28 as Australia were dismissed for 176 despite an innings of 53 by Ricky Ponting.

Andrew Strauss (46) and Joe Denly (53) gave England a solid platform with a 106-run opening partnership.

A middle-order collapse gave Australia hope but Paul Collingwood and Tim Bresnan saw England home on 177-6.

Although the victory ensured England escaped an unprecedented 7-0 series drubbing, another sub-standard batting performance - Strauss and Denly excepted - gave them little cause for optimism ahead of the ICC Champions Trophy, which starts on Tuesday.

After an impressive bowling display, when Swann became only the fifth England spin bowler to take five wickets in a one-day innings, the hosts almost contrived to throw away a match which was there for the taking.

From 106-0, when an injudicious reverse sweep cost Strauss his wicket, England slumped to 141-5 and although they reached their target with 10 overs to spare, it was somehow fitting that they should finally stumble over the line courtesy of a no-ball.

Despite the disappointment of missing out on a series whitewash, and dropping to third in the one-day rankings as a consequence, Australia will travel to South Africa for the Champions Trophy confident of repeating their 2006 victory.

With the sun belting down on a glorious morning in Chester-le-Street, Ponting once again lost the toss - his sixth from seven - as Strauss opted to utilise the favourable overhead conditions and bowl first.

The hosts welcomed back Collingwood from a three-game hiatus and gave another local favourite, Graham Onions, his one-day debut at the ground where he recently helped Durham win the County Championship for the second successive year.

On a track offering assistance for both seamers and spinners, England bowled with the control and aggression so often missing in their previous six performances in the series.

Anderson reaped instant success as Shane Watson edged a simple catch to Swann at first slip and Tim Paine, fresh from a maiden one-day ton at Trent Bridge in the previous match, followed suit to give Onions his first one-day wicket for England.

With Australia teetering for the first time in the series at 17-2, the experience of Ponting and Clarke steered the tourists away from immediate danger.

Ponting, in particular, was cutting, pulling and driving with consummate ease and a booming front-foot drive saw the Tasmanian surpass Inzamam-ul-Haq and move to third in the all-time leading one-day run scorers, with only Sanath Jayasuriya and Sachin Tendulkar now in front of him.

But soon after reaching his 68th one-day half century, Ponting was beaten in the flight by Swann and looped a catch to Collingwood, who was stationed at mid-on, a dismissal which sparked a seven-wicket collapse for just 80 runs.

The breakthrough provided fresh impetus for England and Clarke followed soon after for 38, run out by a smart piece of fielding from Eoin Morgan.

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