England beat Australia as fans are denied SANDPAPER fun at the Oval | Cricket | Sport

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But it could not stop Australia being roughed up inside the ropes as they were well beaten in the first one day international, England prevailing by a margin of three wickets with six overs to spare.

A victory over the old enemy, which in the end was a touch narrower than had looked likely when Joe Root and Eoin Morgan were tanking along at 153-3 in pursuit of just 215, was the perfect response to the lack-lustre effort against Scotland in Edinburgh at the weekend.

But England’s chase was not without its nervy moments, David Willey and Liam Plunkett eventually bringing the hosts home with the former ending the night with a straight six into the pavilion.

Australia will take some comfort from the fact that even with several of their best limited overs performers missing either through injury or infamy – Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are unfit and Steve Smith and David Warner suspended in the aftermath of the ball tampering scandal in South Africa in March – they went close enough.

Yet a total of 214 was so far below par that the truth was they had no margin for error. A promising pace display from Billy Stanlake and the clever variations from Kyle Richardson and Andrew ‘AJ’ Tye never had enough runs to defend.

England were not flawless three days on from their traumatic trip north of the border and were guilty of twice letting Australia back into the contest when they should have been putting a lid on it.

They faltered early in the chase losing three wickets early on which saw them wobble at 38-3 and three more as they closed on the target – Morgan, Jos Buttler and Root leaving them six down with 52 still needed.

Yet in between, the captains of white and red ball combined nervelessy for a 115-run partnership which gave England the platform to go one up in the series.

If the sandpaper stunt outside had raised a few smiles – if not from gatemen who ensured Surrey will never have to buy another piece again – it seemed appropriate enough given Australia were far from the finished article here.

However less than 12 months out from the World Cup Australia showed they have options in the bowling ranks and a return to form from Glenn Maxwell, who posted 62 having struggled in two warm-up matches, was another positive.

England had been happy to accede to Australia captain Tim Paine’s request for the two sides to engage in a ‘fair-play’ handshake beforehand as the detoxification process continues but it gave way to a stranglehold once the match got underway.

Justin Langer’s men had struggled against spin in two warm-up matches against Sussex and Middlesex and Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid applied a tourniquet to their innings in an 18 over spell of slow bowling – yielding 4-73 – from which they never escaped.

Moeen had been swept out of the attack by Scotland at The Grange but bowled a better length here and took three crucial wickets, Aaron Finch, Shaun Marsh and captain Paine.

But Rashid deserved just as much credit with Australia struggling to pick his variations, his 10 overs going for a miserly 36.

Just Maxwell and Ashton Agar offered resistance, the former effectively ending the twin spin attack when going after Moeen towards the end of his spell despatching his last over for 14.

However, after very nearly re-floating Australia’s innings, having arrived at 70-4 and taking them to 174-5 in the 37th over, Maxwell picked out Jonny Bairstow on the square leg boundary trying to flick Liam Plunkett to the rope.

His exit left Agar battling with a long tail and Plunkett was able to pick up a couple of cheap wickets as Australia added just 21 for their last four which was nowhere near enough by modern standards in 50 overs cricket.

Australia look likely to add a little bit more ballast up front in Cardiff where Darcy Short’s brutal hitting could put a few balls in the Taff but England will know one more victory gives them a potentially decisive lead in the series.

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