• England v Australia, NatWest Series, Old Trafford

Bopara stars as England clinch 4-0 victory

The Report by David Hopps
July 10, 2012
England 138 for 3 (Cook 58, Bopara 52*) beat Australia 145 for 7 (Bailey 46*, Bopara 2-8) by seven wickets (D/L method)
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

James Tredwell took two wickets on his England return © Getty Images

Australia's coach, Mickey Arthur, had called for more mongrel but the Australian attack dog managed only a growl or two as England ruthlessly completed a 4-0 victory in a NatWest Series that remained in their control until the last. Australia remain top of the ICC one-day rankings solely because of the abandoned match at Edgbaston, spared by Pommie rain.

England were set 146 for victory in 32 overs, a target reduced to 138 in 29 as rain tumbled for the last time from churlish Lancashire skies. There was potential for it to be awkward as Australia took two quick wickets, but Alastair Cook, looking more and more like a one-day captain of status, and Ravi Bopara, in one of his most bullish innings in an England shirt, timed England's seven-wicket victory with 11 balls to spare with aplomb.

Cook fell with 12 runs needed, caught at slip off Ben Hilfenhaus for 58, but Bopara, his Essex colleague, saw things through. He has good reason to remember this series fondly. He finished as the second highest run-scorer in the series, behind Ian Bell, strutting his stuff for England like he rarely has before, and has probably secured a batting place in the first Test ahead of Eoin Morgan and Jonny Bairstow on the strength of it.

Bopara had fun with the ball, too. His loosener strangled Steve Smith down the leg side and David Hussey edged another routine delivery to the wicketkeeper. If this weather keeps up, he can fiddle through a few overs as England's fifth bowler against South Africa.

Australia will want to forget this series by the morning. They have been not as much out of season as overpowered by England's high-class pace attack in challenging conditions.

They will console themselves that it has been a tour with no significance, a tour devised by administrators during misguided diplomatic tit for tat. But Michael Clarke, Australia's captain, sought no excuses: "It was a wake-up call for the team," he said. "England were class. A lot of our team have not faced an attack like that in one-day cricket."

The public have turned out in defiance of abysmal weather, and England have rewarded them with committed, powerful cricket, but not before time, a proper series, against South Africa, awaits. They have beaten Australia in a one-day series with conventional cricket and that will help convince them they can carry this form into the longer game.

There have been more beautiful visions than the one that met England and Australia at the end of this series. The skies glowered in various shades of Manchester grey, a colour now so popular that it has swept the nation, and an extensive rebuilding scheme had left parts of the ground covered in scaffolding.

Only the façade of the old pavilion remains. Walk behind it at the moment and it looks like a theatre prop except with more rubble. It could be excellent when it is finished, but it is not finished and a capacity crowd, having endured afternoon rain, suffered the privations of a half-finished stadium in the belief that a brave new world will have dawned by the time the Ashes Test returns a year's hence.

It was 13 degrees in Manchester, colder than Christmas Day apparently, and Australia looked ready for the tour to end. David Warner, at the start, and George Bailey in the final throes of a laboured Australian innings, batted gamely, Bailey finishing unbeaten on 46 from 41 balls as 25 came off the last two overs.

However, James Tredwell was another England player with cause to regard the match as invaluable. Graeme Swann, England's premier offspinner, exudes the confidence of a chat show host; Tredwell, his experienced Kent replacement, displays a meekness that Swann presumably tossed aside soon after birth, along with his first baby rattle.

Be that as it may, Tredwell proved a more than capable replacement for his more outgoing colleague. He finished with 2 for 23 in seven overs and was involved in one of two England run outs as their ground fielding again achieved standards that in this series their catching has not matched.

Samit Patel redeemed himself for an earlier dropped catch with a sharp throw to Tredwell at the bowler's end as Peter Forrest failed to hustle a second run to long on. Clarke, again looking to up the tempo, sought a desperate single in to the off side and was comfortably run out by Morgan's direct hit.

Such has been the praise lavished upon England for their rise to No. 1 in the Test and T20 rankings, allied to the suspicion that an identical standing in ODIs might not be far behind, that a slight deterioration in their catching standards has largely passed unrecorded.

James Anderson, the local favourite; the otherwise impressive Tredwell, who before his wickets would probably go down as the man least recognised; and Patel, who found himself playing the unwanted role of the fielding buffoon, dropped three catches between them in consecutive overs.

Wade was dropped off Stuart Broad and Steven Finn in successive overs, Anderson palming away a chest-high chance (a rare blemish from England's finest close fielder that almost had DEAD RUBBER stamped on it) and Tredwell, who stooped for a low one somewhat rheumatically as if the endless rain was beginning to take its toll. As for Patel's fumble when Warner hacked Broad to third man, the looks of disbelief on the faces of spectators behind him told its own story.

In that time, Warner fuelled Australia. He grafted hard and had one domineering moment when he swung Broad over the long-on boundary. He had a run-a-ball 32 when Tredwell produced turn and defeated an ungainly sweep.

Wade, opening because of Shane Watson's return, injured, to Australia, made no claim to the job for good, scrambling 12 in 41 balls before Tredwell had him stumped. It was a hard ask - against challenging English conditions and against Anderson and Steve Finn, armed with two new balls - but his critical stare at the spot where the ball had turned quite normally was a poor exit.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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