Hobart: Stand-in captain Steve Smith made an unbeaten 102 to guide Australia to a tense three-wicket win over England in the tri-series one-day cricket international on Friday, clinching its place in the final.
Smith, who led Australia in an ODI for the first time in the absence of George Bailey – suspended for one match for an over-rate infraction – won the toss, bowled, and saw England make 303-8 in 50 overs, thanks to Ian Bell’s 141.
He then helped Australia explore its depth ahead of next month’s World Cup by marshaling a depleted batting order in a difficult run chase. Australia was without Bailey and frontline batsmen David Warner and Shane Watson – both with hamstring injuries – but paced its reply well, and reached 304-7 with one ball to spare.
Smith continues to tap a rich vein of batting form: He made 769 runs — a record tally — in the recent test series against India, and has three centuries and three half centuries in his last 10 one-day innings.
He came to the crease in the 12th over after Aaron Finish (32) and Shaun Marsh (45) gave Australia a sound start, putting on 76 for the first wicket at almost seven runs per over.
Smith then controlled the run chase, carrying his bat for the remainder of the innings. He reached a half century from 51 balls, and his century, his third in ODIs, from 93 balls.
Smith had support throughout the innings: Glenn Maxwell made 37 before recklessly sacrificing his wicket in the 27th over, and James Faulkner made 35. Australia’s required run-rate lagged stubbornly at more than a run a ball throughout the innings, until wicketkeeper Brad Haddin hit 42 from 29 balls to make the target more attainable.
But there was still tension for Australia when Haddin was out with seven runs still needed with 15 balls remaining. England substantially tightened its bowling and fielding, and the incoming batsman, Moises Henrique, couldn’t get the ball away while depriving Smith of the strike.
There seemed plenty of time for Australia but its tally of balls remaining dwindled without it making progress towards its target. It came to the last over needing five runs to win, a seemingly easy task, but was left to face a tense finish when Henriques was run out with two runs needed and three balls remaining.
Smith and his last partner, Mitchell Starc, completed the win with a ball to spare but the manner in which Australia closed out the second-highest run c6hase at Bellerive Oval was of some concern.
It’s recent chasing has been less well-organized than it would hope with the World Cup looming.
“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, England batted soundly after being sent in to bat. Bell’s 141 and Joe Root’s 69 set it up for a challenging total.
Bell followed his match-winning 88 not out against India on Tuesday with his fourth century in 149 one-dayers, putting on 113 for the first wicket with Moeen Ali (46), and 121 with Root for the third wicket before he was out in the 42nd over.
England didn’t fully capitalize on the foundation set by Bell, losing its last five wickets for 49 runs, including three wickets for two runs — with two run-outs — in the 50th over.