Mon, Feb 12, 2007 - Page 20 News List

England win series to confound critics

EAT YOUR WORDSAustralia's cricket coach was left with egg on his face after complaining that Andrew Flintoff's team were not providing enough competition

AFP , SYDNEY

England captain Andrew Flintoff celebrates after taking the wicket of Australia's Michael Hussey during the second tri-series cricket one-day final at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday.

PHOTO: AFP

England capped their miraculous resurrection by claiming the triangular one-day series with an emphatic 34-run win over Australia in the second final at the Sydney Cricket Ground yesterday.

It was a fairytale end to their Australian tour giving the English an unbeatable 2-0 lead in the best-of-three tri-series finals after their four-wicket victory in Melbourne on Friday.

England, led by Paul Collingwood's third successive man of the match performance, made 246 for eight after winning the toss and electing to bat.

Then Collingwood's Durham teammate, emerging swing bowler Liam Plunkett, starred with the ball as Australia struggled to 152 from eight from 27 overs in reply.

Premature end

When rain brought a premature end to the match, an outclassed Australia were well short of the necessary total of 187 under the Duckworth-Lewis system, following earlier rain delays.

It was England's second win in the tri-series and their first since 1986-1987.

England started the tri-series as 14-1 rank outsiders and were subsequently told by the Australian media they might as well go home after two poor performances in Adelaide.

They finished the series without the injured quartet of batsmen Kevin Pietersen and Michael Vaughan and bowlers James Anderson and Jon Lewis.

Yet they won their last four games to snatch an unlikely trophy from the wreckage of their previously disastrous Ashes tour as Australian coach John Buchanan's complaints that the English were not providing enough competition for his side came back to haunt him.

It was the first time Australia had not won their home tri-series since 2001-2002 and they looked nothing like a side heavily favored to win a third World Cup in succession in a couple of months time.

After Collingwood made 70 to help England post a total that was always going to be competitive at a ground where teams batting first have an excellent record, Plunkett (3-43) turned the game on its head in the first over after the day's third rain break.

Australia were already in some trouble at 39-2, with Plunkett having claimed the prized wicket of Ricky Ponting, when the rain came.

With the first ball after the resumption, things got much worse for the home side when Plunkett went around the wicket and produced a huge inswinger to clean bowl the potentially dangerous Adam Gilchrist.

Plunkett struck again to have Michael Clarke caught behind from the last ball of what was a pivotal over as Australia slumped to 40 for four.

Interim captain Andrew Flintoff, who would have savored the victory more than most after a draining summer, then came into the attack and snared the one player who might have been able to engineer an Australian comeback, the normally reliable Mike Hussey, for a duck.

There was more drama when rain forced the players off for a fourth time, with Australia at 79-5 and 3.4 overs still needed in the Australian innings to constitute a match.

All hope of an Australian revival disappeared when James Dalrymple hauled in an incredible one-handed diving catch from the bowling of the irrepressible Collingwood to remove all-rounder Shane Watson for 37.

Collingwood also claimed the scalp of Brad Hogg to cap an outstanding finals series.

Earlier Collingwood and Flintoff put on 97 for the fifth wicket to steady the England innings.

Chanceless

Collingwood was coming off successive centuries and again batted with great assurance, making a chanceless 70 before being caught behind attempting a cheeky reverse sweep off seamer Nathan Bracken.

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