England landed an early psychological blow on Australia ahead of the Ashes series, beating their fierce rivals by 48 runs in their opening match of the Champions Trophy on Saturday.
Opener Ian Bell hit a patient 91 to help steer England to 269-6, a target that appeared competitive but very catchable on a benign strip under blue, sunny skies at Edgbaston.
It proved too much for an out-of-form Australia, though, as the tourists could make only 221-9 with half-centuries from stand-in captain George Bailey and James Faulkner.
The Australians are already up against it in Group A, which also contains Sri Lanka and New Zealand, and the result won’t do much for their self-belief with the Ashes fast approaching.
D Warner c Buttler b Broad 9
James Anderson claimed three victims to become England’s leading wicket-taker in ODIs with 237, taking sole possession of the record he previously shared with Darren Gough. He was well backed up by tight bowling from his teammates, particularly Stuart Broad (1-35) and spinners James Tredwell and Joe Root who strangled Australia mid-innings.
These are worrying times for Australia, who were bowled out for just 65 to lose a warm-up match against India by 243 runs and were without captain and talisman Michael Clarke because of a nagging lower back injury.
Winning the Champions Trophy for a third straight time looks well beyond them but England, who have never won a 50-over ICC competition, must be an outside bet on home soil.
This was the first of a minimum 26 matches across all formats between the old foes over the next nine months, with back-to-back Test series really starting to whet the appetite.
That gave this contest some added bite – if it was ever needed – with both teams looking to lay down a marker. England did just that, despite appearing to botch an opportunity to put a total of more than 300 on the board.
The hosts failed to kick on from a promising start given to them by a second-wicket stand of 111 between Bell and Jonathan Trott.
Trott’s departure for 43 heralded a mid-innings collapse, with Root (12), Eoin Morgan (8) and Jos Buttler (1) going cheaply. Bell also departed in that mini-meltdown – clean bowled by Faulkner with a fourth ODI century in sight – after a patient 115-ball knock that contained seven fours.
Suddenly England were 213-6, having been 168-1, and with no momentum.
Ravi Bopara (46 not out) and Tim Bresnan (19 not out) provided some flourishes in a belated rally – the one and only six of the innings came from Bopara in the penultimate over – but there was a fear England had wasted a great opportunity.
That didn’t prove to be the case.
Australia’s reply never really got going, losing wickets at regular intervals starting with David Warner (9) in the sixth over when he was caught behind off Broad.
Alastair Cook dropped tough chances off Shane Watson and Phil Hughes, but snagged Watson (24) following an inside edge off Bresnan. When Hughes departed for 30, lbw to Root’s part-time offspin, Australia was always struggling even with Bailey plugging away at one end for 55.
Anderson claimed the wickets of Mitchell Marsh and Matthew Wade at the start of his second spell and then Starc later to grab England’s ODI record, ending with figures of 3-30.
The Test series, starting on July 10 in Trent Bridge, will be another matter entirely but this will have proved to be a useful exercise in probing for weaknesses and sizing each other up.
The tension was already there going by a skirmish in the 31st over in England’s innings between Trott and wicketkeeper Wade, who faced up to the batsman after tripping over his bat while attempting to field a return throw near the stumps. Words were clearly exchanged and the umpires came in to intervene.
They didn’t come to blows but this was definitely round one to England.