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Rampant Australia cruise past Listless England in Opener

England's Cricket World Cup campaign got off to a poor start with a crushing defeat to Australia, despite a superb innings by James Taylor.

Australia: 342/9 (50 overs)
England: 231 all out (41.5 overs)

England had been largely written off by pundits ahead of this year’s Cricket World Cup, but the manner of the opening defeat to Australia was still disappointing. After winning the toss and choosing to bowl, England managed to make some early inroads into the Australian top order, with Stuart Broad dismissing David Warner (22) and Shane Watson for a duck, before Chris Woakes bowled the influential Steve Smith to reduce the hosts to 70-3 after just over ten overs.

However, Aaron Finch was in fine form, and his 146-run stand with George Bailey helped to take the game away from England, leaving Woakes to regret dropping the bulky right-hander during the very first over of the game. The stand was one of recuperation to start with; after Smith’s dismissal, the pair went 58 balls without hitting a boundary. But after a spell of nudging around the ball into gaps, Finch started to take on the bowling, and after a flurry of boundaries, brought up his century from just 102 balls.

It was Finch’s sixth ODI century, but none of his previous efforts will compare to this knock, on World Cup debut in front of a partisan MCG crowd. He joined David Boon as the only Australian to make a World Cup ton in Australia after this effort.

Finch celebrates
Aaron Finch celebrates his hundred

After some lacklustre fielding, England finally managed to take a wicket with one of their plentiful half-chances, with skipper Eoin Morgan running out Aaron Finch by a distance with a direct hit. However, having already managed 135, Finch had definitely done his job, and his dismissal gave the lower-middle order a chance to show their value.

Stand-in skipper Bailey managed a half-century for the first time since November, but when Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh came together with twelve overs to go, fireworks were always likely.

Maxwell’s third ball from Moeen Ali (0/60) was nonchalantly dispatched for four with a reverse-sweep, and a display of power hitting saw him manage eleven boundaries in his 66 off 40. Marsh played a more subdued role, but his dismissal led to Brad Haddin coming to the crease.

The wicket-keeper’s fourteen-ball stay saw him in fine form, with five boundaries helping him to 31, which helped to power Australia past 300. The final three balls of the innings saw Steven Finn manage the first ODI hat-trick by an Englishman since Freddie Flintoff in 2009, but his final figures of 5/71 showed the powerful onslaught that the Aussies had managed; a total of 342-9 looked like it would be well beyond England at the halfway mark.

This proved to be the case; England’s top order threw away their wickets far too easily, with the top five all being caught playing aggressive shots. Moeen Ali was out to Mitchell Starc, whose impressive pace caused him and Ian Bell a few problems at the top of the order. Josh Hazlewood did not enjoy much success, and was Australia most expensive seamer by a distance, but Mitchell Marsh, on World Cup debut, was exemplary with his line and length in picking up five wickets.

During his commentary spell, Shane Warne suggested that Marsh might be the man for England’s top order to target, but his consistency led to rash shots by Ian Bell (36), Morgan (0), Joe Root (5) and Gary Ballance (10).

James Taylor and Jos Buttler both looked as though they would go about the rebuilding process, but a remarkable Smith catch at short cover meant that Taylor was left to partner the lower order. Chris Woakes stuck around for 37, but by this stage, it was clear that the game was gone for England.

Smith and Maxwell were both given bowling spells, but Taylor managed to hit them out of the attack with some excellent strokes. Mitchell Johnson was surprisingly subdued for his own exceptionally high standards, although he managed to break Woakes and Taylor’s 92-run pairing, and then took the wicket of Steven Finn soon after.

Taylor continued in his aggressive way despite the game being beyond his team, and was very close to bringing up a superb hundred, but after he was struck on the pads by Hazlewood, the Decision Review System saved him from an LBW dismissal on 98. However, at the non-striker’s end, James Anderson switched off and was not in his crease, so when Maxwell ran him out, the game was over with Taylor unbeaten two short of his hundred.

A 111-run defeat may be considered unlucky by many Englishmen, but they can only hope that the rest of the tournament is more successful than this calamitous display.

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