Steven Smith maintained his purple patch to hit a brilliant unbeaten 102 and secure Australia a three-wicket victory against England in a high-scoring tri-series match in Hobart, Australia, yesterday.
Brad Haddin also chipped in with a quickfire 42 off 29 balls as the hosts chased down the daunting 304-run target with one ball to spare to pick up their third consecutive win and reach the final of the tournament, also featuring India.
Ian Bell’s career-best 141 had powered England to 303-8, but they were left to rue their inability to score freely during the closing stages, which Australia used superbly to claim victory.
Stand-in captain Smith, who scored four centuries against India during the 2-0 Test series win, continued his rich vein of form to complete another ton on his one-day international captaincy debut, his third in the 50-over format.
Shaun Marsh (45), who replaced the injured David Warner, and Aaron Finch (32) gave Australia the ideal platform for the chase with a brisk opening stand of 76.
England fast bowler Steven Finn, who took five wickets on Tuesday to destroy India, dismissed Marsh and Cameron White (0) in three deliveries, leaving it to Smith to resurrect Australia from 92-3.
The 25-year-old looked unperturbed, adding 69 with Glenn Maxwell (37) for the fourth wicket and another 55 with James Faulkner (35) for the fifth to take Australia close.
Smith, who hit six fours and a six, and Haddin then batted sensibly during their 81-run stand and took the attack to the bowlers once the victory was in sight.
“It did get tight,” Smith said. “It was nice to get home in the end.The boys played well throughout the middle of the innings after we got away to a good start. We just had to cruise through the middle so we could go hard at the end. Brad [Haddin] came out and really took the pressure off. He cleared the fence a couple of times and hit some good boundaries.”
Earlier, put in to bat by Australia, Bell and Moeen Ali (46) added 113 for the opening wicket to give England a flying start.
An aggressive Bell, who hit 15 fours and one six in his 125-ball innings, appeared in good touch and took a firm step toward securing the opener’s role for the Feb. 19 to March 29 World Cup ahead of Alex Hales.
He timed the ball sweetly, reaching his half-century in 42 balls and then the three-figure mark in 92 balls with a pulled single off paceman Pat Cummins.
Cummins was punished by Moeen early on when the left-hander pulled the bowler for three consecutive sixes.
Bell also added 121 for the third wicket with Joe Root (69), but medium pacer Gurinder Sandhu pulled things back for Australia by dismissing Bell and England captain Eoin Morgan for a golden duck in three balls.
England lost six wickets in the final nine overs, including three in the last three deliveries of the innings.
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