Steven Smith © Getty Images
Steven Smith scored his third ODI ton © Getty Images

Steven Smith’s unbeaten century led Australia to a three-wicket win over England in the fourth One-Day International (ODI) at Hobart. Shaun Marsh and Brad Haddin put in valuable contributions as well, as the hosts completed their third win on the trot. It should have been a canter, but a poor innings from Moises Henriques took the match down to the final over.

Australia got off to an excellent start thanks to Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh, neither of whom could cross 50, but both of whom batted rapidly to get Australia to 76 in the 12th over before the first wicket fell. Finch was the man to get out, falling to the man who is constantly treated like a lowly part-timer, and who constantly makes the offending batsmen pay: Moeen Ali.

Finch was guilty of underestimating Moeen, stepping out and looking to go for a big hit only to lose his stumps. That brought in the stand-in captain’s stand-in skipper, Steven Smith. Smith had earlier celebrated his debut as Test captain with a century against India, and seemed keen to keep the record going in ODIs as well. He scored a breezy fifty, and kicked on after that as well.

Steven Finn came to the party at the other end, getting rid of Marsh and Cameron White in the same over. White, on ODI comeback, lasted all of two deliveries before walking back to the hut, defeated by an excellent swinging yorker from Finn. Glenn Maxwell came in and batted rather sedately, adding 69 with Smith before taking on Moeen and losing his wicket.

That brought James Faulkner — statistically a better batsman while chasing than the likes of Virat Kohli and MS Dhoni — to the middle. Faulkner batted calmly, and with Smith added a crucial 55. But just when things were looking rosy for Australia, Chris Woakes struck, getting rid of Faulkner for a composed 35.

Brad Haddin came in to bat at No. 7, and gave Smith company as his captain went about doing what he does best. Haddin then became the aggressor, taking the pressure off Smith, who compiled a century on captaincy debut for the second time in two months; a fairly good achievement given that he was the replacement captain’s replacement. In the end, Australia cantered away to another easy win.

Earlier, Bell scored a tremendous 141 to lead England to 303 for eight against Australia. He was well-supported by Moeen Ali at the start and Joe Root in the middle overs as the English batsmen put the Australian bowlers to the sword. Bell had a tremendous match, going past 5,000 ODI runs, then becoming England’s leading run-scorer in 50-over cricket, and also getting his highest score in the format, all in the same match.

Bell and Moeen started off in thunderous fashion, hitting a slew of boundaries off Mitchell Starc, who looked markedly less effective than he did in the last two ODIs. Even Pat Cummins was not spared, as Bell took over the role of aggressor in the century opening partnership. The pair was finally separated with the score on 113, as Moeen played one shot too many, and holed out to substitute fielder Xavier Doherty.

James Taylor, batting No. 3, looked quite uncomfortable, and was unable to get going. He was dismissed for a 14-ball five, getting an attempted drive off the bottom of the bat. England were in danger of losing the plot after a good start, but new man Joe Root kept the runs coming at a fair clip as he and Bell first consolidated and then went for their strokes. The duo put on 121 for the third wicket, and though they slowed down toward the end, they managed to take England to a competitive total from which to kick on.

However, Gurinder Sandhu — playing only his second ODI after debuting against India — turned the tide in Australia’s favour with a double strike in the 42nd over, getting rid of Bell and skipper Eoin Morgan (for a first-ball duck). Bell was going for his shots, and was deceived by a slower ball from Sandhu. He was caught well by Starc for a superb 141 off 125 balls. Morgan was out for a first-ball duck, edging behind to Brad Haddin.

Jos Buttler came in to bat at No. 6 ahead of Ravi Bopara, and in partnership with Root took England further. Root in particular accelerated toward the latter part of the innings, but was out for 69 in the quest for big runs. He was out caught by Aaron Finch while pulling to Pat Cummins.

Starc then bowled terrifically at the death to strangle England, who at one point looked like they would go well past 350. He stifled Bopara in particular, who looked all at sea against the subtle variations in pace and length, bowling him in the last over of the innings for an agonisingly slow 16-ball 7. England finally ended around 20-30 runs short of what they would have expected when Bell and Root were batting.

Earlier, Australia won the toss and chose to field first. Steven Smith, captaining the side for the first time on debut, announced at the toss that there were three changes: David Warner, Shane Watson, and George Bailey had to miss out, and were replaced by Shaun Marsh, Cameron White, and Moises Henriques. England went in with the same side, as James Anderson became England’s most-capped player across formats in the process.

Brief scores:

England 303 for 8 in 50 overs (Moeen Ali 46, Ian Bell 141, Joe Root 69; Gurinder Sandhu 2 for 49) lost to Australia 304 for 7 in 49.5 overs (Shaun Marsh 45, Steven Smith 102*; Chris Woakes 2 for 57, Moeen Ali 2 for 50) by 3 wickets.

Man of the Match: Steven Smith

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(Shiamak Unwalla, a reporter with CricketCountry, is a self-confessed Sci-Fi geek and cricket fanatic. You can follow him on Twitter @ShiamakUnwalla)