227 was a target which would have pleased Morgan. Moreover, the early moisture in the wicket too were exploited by his pacers in breaking Australia’s top-order. However, 15 minutes into the chase, it looked as if England top-order were batting with a single stump in their hands. During the series, Clint Mckay expressed his desire to stay around in the Australian team at least till the 2015 World Cup. If he bowled the way he did today, selector John Inverarity would place the medium pacer without any hesitation.
Under sunny conditions, McKay pitched it up full and straight seaming in to hit Kevin Pietersen’s pads. An early wicket infused some more positivity in the Australian camp early on. The situation was nowhere close to testing new man Jonathan Trott who walked to the crease to perhaps launch an anchor like he usually does. On any given day Trott would have raised his arms and let a wide ball go through early in his innings, but to McKay’s fortune Trott disastrously went for a drive and handed a simple catch to Aaron Finch in the slips. The Aussies were suddenly charged up as the young Joe Root walked to the crease. McKay’s consistency was spot on yet again as Root too thought of offering a shot to a delivery pitched just outside the off-stump and within no time Shane Watson had latched on to a catch to make McKay the fifth Australian and 34th overall to bag a hat-trick in ODIs.
Eoin Morgan and Michael Carberry who was left to witness the historic moment from the other end then cautiously attempted to survive through the powerplay. In McKay’s fourth over, an excited Michael Clarke went for a review in a hope to have England completely on the mat but replays showed Morgan’s bat was nowhere close to the ball. The powerplay filled with seaming deliveries earned England just 26 runs at the loss of three top-order batsmen. Meanwhile Mitchell Johnson from the other end too was fairly quick to trouble the batsmen.
England innings crawled and crawled along under two runs per over. The hosts were at 51 by the end of 20th over after which the opening bowlers McKay and Johnson were brought back. However, Carberry and Morgan had got their eyes in playing out the overs with patience. The batsmen slowly freed their arms as the pitch wasn’t as devilish as it appeared at the start. The run-rate was inching towards the six-run mark.
Morgan completed his half-century with an elegant-looking cover drive off Watson. England’s fightback was jolted soon as Watson bowled Morgan in the very next delivery. The 104-run partnership in just over 28 overs had given England a hope to inch towards the target. In Watson’s next over wicketkeeper Matthew Wade missed a catch offered by Ravi Bopara.
However Carberry who completed his maiden half-century prior to Morgan’s dismissal, was sent back by debutant Nathan Coulter-Nile. Carberry’s 63-run innings ended when he went for a flick walking across the stumps only to be bowled behind his legs.
England were slowly sinking when Bopara (7) was out leg before in the batting powerplay off James Faulkner. When Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler came together, the run-rate was moving towards the eight-run mark. From thereon, England hit a boundary for four consecutive overs to keep the run-rate in check. Butler as expected turned the more aggressive of the two while all-rounder Stokes to looked handy.
Buttler got to his fifty with three overs to spare and 17 to get. The capacity crowd was back on their feet accompanied by loud music and their favourite Mitchell Johnson walked to his bowling mark. Stokes hit a four past mid-wicket to ease the pressure.
Soon when the pair looked set to power Australia to a win, Australia’s man of the moment McKay bowled Stokes for 25 with another 10 needed off 11. Tredwell, the new man struggled but managed to hang on. With seven needed off the last over, Buttler lofted Johnson for a six followed by a boundary on the third delivery to seal the match. For the record, England have not lost an ODI at Cardiff.
Australia’s struggle for runs earlier in the day saw them to 227 thanks to a fine knock of 87 from George Bailey. With the series leveled 1-1, the series will be decided on Monday at Southampton.
Australia 227 in 48.2 overs (George Bailey 87, Matthew Wade 36; James Tredwell 3 for 53, Boyd Rankin 2 for 31) lost to England 231 for 7 in 49. 3 overs (Jos Butler 65*, Michael Carberry 63; Clint McKay 4 for 39) by 3 wickets.