Australia on verge of rare home series loss after another defeat

Form batsman: Aaron Finch attacks the English bowling, but his departure left Australia idling in the final overs. Photo: AP
Form batsman: Aaron Finch attacks the English bowling, but his departure left Australia idling in the final overs. Photo: AP

Aaron Finch peeled off back-to-back centuries but it was not enough to prevent Australia from slumping to another one-day international defeat on Friday night.

The reigning world champions are on the verge of a rare home series defeat after being outplayed for the second time in as many matches by a resurgent England.

The English were embarrassed at the last World Cup but are now seen by the titleholders as the benchmarks in the 50-over game while Australia are well off the pace.

A late burst from Mitchell Starc, who claimed 4-59 from 10 overs, gave Australia hope of an unlikely win but the target of 271 was at least 50 short.

"It was frustrating. I think we got ourselves into a reasonable position at 3-209 with 11 overs to go. Then everything fell to pieces again," Australian captain Steve Smith said.

Man of the match Joe Root, who earlier claimed two wickets, made an unbeaten 46 to see England home with 34 balls to spare.

"It was ugly batting but I just needed to make sure I got the job done in the end," Root said.

Eoin Morgan's men are now one win away from claiming England's first bilateral series win on these shores. Another defeat for Australia and they will slump to their first series defeat on home soil since being shocked by Sri Lanka at the start of the 2010/11 summer.

England can now call themselves the run-chase king with the four-wicket victory their ninth on the trot when batting second.

Australia have won just one of their past 10 games and though the next World Cup may still be 16 months away, Smith's side need to make every post a winner if they are to head to the tournament with confidence.

The top four, apart from Finch, is not firing while the middle order keeps making the same mistakes - even after Glenn Maxwell's controversial axing. There are also concerns with Australia's pace depth while Nathan Lyon's continued omission from the team is harder to comprehend with every defeat.

Australia squandered another golden opportunity to post a total well in excess of 300 when Finch and Mitchell Marsh departed in quick succession heading into the frantic final overs.

Finch said he had left his team hanging in Melbourne after failing to turn his hundred into an agenda-setting innings and, along with Marsh, did so again here.

But there's only so much blame that can be apportioned to a man who has made 106. The real issue lies elsewhere in the top four where senior pair David Warner and Smith as well as Travis Head are not laying the foundation for their team.

Warner and Smith have plenty of credits but not so Head, who is averaging 29 across his past 10 knocks stretching back to the start of the New Zealand almost 12 months ago.

Australia's innings followed a similar script to the first game only this time there was no one capable of reproducing Marcus Stoinis' fireworks in the lower order.

Australia left wickets in hand to make a late dash only to whimper to the line with 6-62 in the last 11 overs.

It would be harsh to drop Cameron White after just one match but questions will be asked of his recall after he made 15 off 21 balls and failed to find the boundary.

His selection at the expense of leggie Adam Zampa became even more puzzling when part-time spinners Head and Finch came into the attack in the seventh and 13th overs respectively. The pair conceded 72 from 10 wicketless overs.

Starc breathed life into the contest by capturing the wickets of Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali but ran out of overs.

Although Jhye Richardson made a promising ODI debut with 2-57, Australia's bowling otherwise lacked penetration.

One of the best bowlers in the Big Bash League, Andrew Tye has shown he can contain but is yet to take a wicket from 19 overs.

And too much is being asked of all-rounders Stoinis and Marsh, with the latter still struggling with the ball after a shoulder reconstruction.

This story Australia on verge of rare home series loss after another defeat first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.