Travis Head scored 106 off 141 © Getty Images
Travis Head scored 106 off 141 © Getty Images

Travis Head’s century and two wickets from Billy Stanlake helped Australia  beat Middlesex by 101 runs at Lord’s on Saturday in their last warm-up fixture before a one-day international series against England. Australia, despite a century from Travis Head, found runs hard to come by in a total of 283 for six.

Head made 106 and Australia vice-captain Aaron Finch 54. Australia, for the second match in a row, following their 277 for nine in a 57-run tour-opening win over Sussex at Hove on Thursday, Australia failed to reach the now 50-over par total of 300.

But a target of 284 proved well beyond Middlesex, who were dismissed for 182 with nine overs to spare despite opener Max Holden’s 71 that following a miserly one for 29 in 10 with his part-time off-spin. Fast bowler Billy Stanlake looked lively in taking two for 45, while Kane Richardson helped himself to some cheap dismissals as Middlesex lost their last six wickets for just 43 runs.

Australia’s batting though was a concern ahead of a five-match one-day international series against number-one ranked England, the 2019 World Cup hosts, that starts across London at The Oval on Wednesday.  It was also a reminder they were without two outstanding batsmen in former captain Steven Smith  and his deputy David Warner, who both received year-long bans for their roles in a ball-tampering scandal during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town in March.

In addition to Smith and Warner, Australia arrived in England without their injured frontline fast-bowling trio of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood, as well as sidelined all-rounder Mitchell Marsh. But their white-ball problems predate the ball-tampering scandal, with Australia losing their last three bilateral ODI series — against New Zealand, India and England.

Head opened alongside D’Arcy Short as Finch dropped down the order after his 78 against Sussex. Short fell for 18 when a mistimed pull off Thomas Barber was brillianly caught one-handed by a leaping Nathan Sowter — born and brought up in western Sydney — at midwicket.

Shaun Marsh, playing his first match of the tour after Marcus Stoinis was left out following his hundred against Sussex, made 49 off 64 balls before he was well-held at midwicket by Middlesex captain Steven Finn, the England fast bowler, to give Holden a first List A wicket. As at Hove, Glenn Maxwell fell in single figures to a spinner, the all-rounder lbw for three trying to sweep left-armer Ravi Patel on Saturday.

Head, who has been playing English county cricket for Worcestershire this season, had the satisfaction of scoring a century at the ‘home of cricket’. But the fact it took him 133 balls was evidence of Australia’s struggles, despite an exceptionally short boundary on the Tavern Stand side of Lord’s. and soon afterwards he was caught behind off leg-spinner Sowter. Australia’s bowlers spared their batsmen’s blushes, however.

Michael Neser took a sharp one-handed caught and bowled chanced to remove Nick Gubbins. Middlesex’s 48 for one soon became 60 for three when Stanlake, in his first match of the tour, uprooted George Scott’s middle stump with an express delivery. But former England Under-19 captain Holden completed a run-a-ball fifty.

Australia’s Hilton Cartwright, an overseas player with Middlesex ths season, had earlier dropped a simple catch in the deep to reprive Finch on 46, holed out for 31 when he hit occasional spinner Short’s first-ball long-hop straight to Head at long-on. Holden’s impressive innings finally ended when he parried a rising Stanlake delivery to a diving Marsh at midwicket.