x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

England's batting defects continue

Captain Andrew Strauss hits a half-century but England's batting struggles continue in the NatWest Series setting Australia 229 to win.

Captain Andrew Strauss hit a half-century but England's batting struggles continue in the NatWest Series. Needing to win to avoid Australia opening up a 3-0 lead, England managed a modest 228 for nine in the day-night contest at the Rose Bowl, Hampshire. Strauss once again held England's batting together but they failed to assert themselves in the pivotal third match of the campaign. When Strauss picked out opposite number Michael Clarke at midwicket off spinner Nathan Hauritz it meant England were in need of consolidation. It took Irish-raised batsman Eoin Morgan to rescue the situation from 98 for four.

Morgan manoeuvred the ball into gaps and also cleared the rope at long-on off James Hopes to hit 41, his highest international score since switching allegiance to England earlier this year. The left-hander was eventually one of two wickets to fall in the batting powerplay, which saw England score just 24 runs between overs 42 and 46, when he lobbed a low full toss from Brett Lee to mid-off. Yorkshire's Tim Bresnan and Notts' Ryan Sidebottom then chipped in with career-best one-day international scores, 31 not out and 24 respectively, to ensure England breached 200. Batsmen were restricted when the bowlers took pace off the ball and scoring was generally easier when the fast men were in operation.

Left-hander Strauss was the one top-order player to come to terms with the sluggish surface. He struck 63, from just 72 deliveries, after opting for a change of tactic, having seen his side fail in pursuit of modest scores during the current campaign. And his innings at least provided hope that one of the top six could go on and develop a start. But he could not fulfil the demand of batting through the innings as he perished attempting to force the tempo. He shared an opening stand of 41 with Ravi Bopara, whose demise came when he attempted a second six off Nathan Bracken for 10.

Matt Prior then pulled straight to square leg without addition to the score and Mitchell Johnson doubled his wicket haul when Owais Shah was adjudged lbw to a delivery which appeared to be going on past off-stump. Both sides were unchanged for the floodlit contest, which was threatened by light rain at the start. Strauss won the toss for the third consecutive match and chose to bat despite the damp conditions.

* PA Sport