England spectacularly revived their hopes of playing in the triangular one-day series finals by bouncing back for a breakthrough first tour win over Australia at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday.
The embattled tourists put aside unrelenting months of demoralizing defeats in the five Ashes Tests, the 20-20 international and the one-day series to crush the Australians by 92 runs and keep alive their chances of leapfrogging New Zealand into this month's best-of-three finals.
Led by a defiant maiden century from man-of-the-match Ed Joyce and inspired bowling from Liam Plunkett, England posted their highest total of the tri-series with 292 for seven off their 50 overs and claimed a vital bonus point after Australia finished on 200 for nine off 38.5 overs.
Andrew Symonds retired hurt with a strained bicep for 39 and was unable to bat again for Australia.
England joined New Zealand on nine points in the standings behind leaders Australia and if they can beat the Kiwis in Brisbane on Tuesday they will defy the odds and take on the Australians in the finals, starting in Melbourne on Friday.
"It's taken a while to come, I thought we played great tonight," England skipper Andrew Flintoff said. "I thought Ed Joyce was fantastic and then we had a dream start first ball having Adam Gilchrist out and we got on a roll, we fielded tight and it's a great feeling."
It was a rousing return to form for Flintoff's beleaguered team, who faced the dreadful prospect of going through their three-month tour without winning a game against Australian opposition.
"We had a point to prove, we wanted to win in Australia and if we didn't win tonight it could have been our last chance to do so and we've been working hard towards this victory, it has taken a while but I'm glad it's come," Flintoff said.
Joyce, dropped twice, scored 107 off 142 balls to help England post a competitive score and put the Australians under pressure for the first time in the tri-series, having them reeling at 45 for three and never recovering.
Adam Gilchrist, deputizing for injured skipper Ricky Ponting, was bowled first ball by Plunkett and Ponting's replacement Brad Hodge chopped Sajid Mahmood on to his stumps for one to have Australia four for two after just eight balls.
Matthew Hayden top-scored for Australia with 51 off 105 balls but once Symonds retired hurt and the crucial wicket of Mike Hussey fell for six, bowled by Ravi Bopara, the task proved impossible for the home team, accused during the week of being arrogant.
The Australian innings finished 11.1 overs short when Shaun Tait was run out by a direct throw by Ian Bell for 11.
Plunkett, shunned for the Ashes Test series, finished with 3-24 off 9.5 overs and Mahmood chipped in with 2-38 off seven overs.
Irishman Joyce, dropped by Tait on six and later by Symonds off his own bowling on 59, was the shining light for England, hitting 10 boundaries before he was caught by Nathan Bracken off Tait.
"I wasn't playing too well early on but then I got into it and calmed down a bit and it went well," Joyce said.
"I know we lost the Ashes series 5-0 and it's our first victory against Australia but it's just brilliant being out here and being part of this team, it's been a rich experience," he said.
England's total surpassed their 260 for eight against New Zealand in Perth last week.
Joyce's opening partner Mal Loye was struck a fearsome blow on the grille of his helmet when he attempted to slog-sweep McGrath, suffering a gashed chin which needed three stitches. He was later cleared of a fractured jaw.
Loye, who resumed batting after lengthy treatment from the trainer, was out next ball as he top-edged a hook shot off McGrath to be caught by Bracken for 29 off 33 balls.
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