Ian Bell starred as England drew first blood in a marathon sequence of matches against Australia with a 48-run victory over the titleholders in their Champions Trophy opener at Edgbaston in Birmingham, England, on Saturday.
Bell made 91 on his Warwickshire home ground to the delight of a capacity 25,000 crowd as England posted 269-6 after captain Alastair Cook won the toss.
Bell also shared a second-wicket stand of 111 with county colleague Jonathan Trott (43) in the first of at least 26 matches, including the upcoming Ashes series in England, across all formats against archrivals Australia between now and Feb. 2 next year.
Australia pegged England back, before an unbroken seventh-wicket stand of 56 between Ravi Bopara (46 not out) and Tim Bresnan (19 not out) bolstered England’s total.
However, a target of 270 proved beyond an Australia side still without captain Michael Clarke, following the recurrence of the star batsman’s longstanding back injury.
During Australia’s 221-9, spearhead seamer James Anderson (three for 30) became England’s outright most successful one-day international bowler, taking the one wicket he needed to surpass the record of 234 wickets he had shared with Darren Gough.
Australia stand-in skipper George Bailey made 55 as they at least put the embarrassment of their 65 all out in Tuesday’s warm-up defeat by India behind them.
However, the loss left Australia — bidding for a third straight Champions Trophy title — with a mountain to climb if they are to qualify for the semi-finals out of a Group A also featuring New Zealand and Sri Lanka, who met in Cardiff, Wales, yesterday.
“We were 180-2, we should have got 300 … but I thought 270 was always going to be enough,” said Cook, whose side came into this match on he back of a 2-1 one-day series defeat by New Zealand, although they beat the Black Caps in Nottingham, England, on Wednesday last week.
“Jimmy [Anderson] is a great bowler, he just keeps getting better and better, and we are lucky to have him,” Cook said.
Man-of-the-match Bell, an opener in one-day internationals, added: “I was pleased to give us a good platform. It’s nice to play some shots at the top of the order.”
Meanwhile, Bailey said Australia’s batting had been the key to the defeat.
“We couldn’t get any momentum and well done to England — they restricted us well,” Bailey said. “The scoreline flattered us a little. It doesn’t look great for us, but it’s just one partnership scoring runs which will make the difference.”
Australia’s reply suffered an early setback when David Warner (9) was well caught by diving wicketkeeper Jos Buttler off Stuart Broad.
Shane Watson (24) fell next, caught by Cook at gully off Tim Bresnan.
Phillip Hughes was missed twice by England, but he could not make them pay, exiting for 30 when leg before wicket to part-time spinner Joe Root after heaving across the line.
Mitchell Marsh became Anderson’s record-breaking victim, caught at backward point by Eoin Morgan. Anderson then made it two wickets for two runs in six balls when Matthew Wade was caught behind.
Bailey pressed on to a 62-ball half-century, but when he holed out to offspinner James Tredwell Australia were all but beaten at 151-7.
James Faulkner finished on 54 not out, but his runs came too late to change the course of the match.
Earlier, there was a flare-up when Australia wicketkeeper Wade thought Trott had impeded him as he tried to gather a wayward return. Sri Lankan umpire Kumar Dharmasena intervened to calm the situation.
Bell had made just three centuries in his previous 130 one-day internationals and the 31-year-old was denied a fourth when he was bowled by left-arm paceman Faulkner.
In Group B, India have already beaten South Africa and the West Indies have defeated Pakistan.
The top two teams from each group will go through to the semi-finals, with the final at Edgbaston on June 23.