First one-day international, The Oval: Australia 260-5 beat England 256-8 by four runs Match scorecard
Ferguson hit 71 from 75 balls in a fine display
By Oliver Brett
Australia took a 1-0 lead in the seven-match one-day series against England with a tense four-run win at The Oval.
The Aussies were put in and made 260-5 thanks to Callum Ferguson's 71.
England scored slowly and left the lower order with a lot to do, but Luke Wright's sparkling 38 and Adil Rashid's unbeaten 31 revived their hopes.
In an exciting conclusion, England needed 13 off the final over, but Ryan Sidebottom failed to hit the last ball for six and England finished on 256-8.
Rashid's impressive 31 came off 23 balls in an all-round performance that will give great heart to England fans.
Rashid played with great maturity to revive England's hopes
The 21-year-old leg-spinner, playing his second one-day international and first against a Test team, had earlier done a fine job with the ball, finishing with 0-37 off 10 probing overs.
The pitch did the batsmen on both sides no favours by occasionally assisting the fast bowlers and then helping the slower men, but there was also a lack of adventure from the players, many of whom seemed to be searching for form.
Australia were restricted to 189-3 from 42 overs but, taking the batting powerplay, blasted 71 off the last eight to reach a competitive total.
That was largely down to Ferguson, who was lucky to survive an lbw appeal off the excellent Rashid before he had scored.
Having got through the variations of Rashid, he finally hit his first boundary when drilling a James Anderson full-toss past mid-off.
Ferguson lost stand-in skipper Michael Clarke, who made a pedestrian 45 off 72 balls before skewing Paul Collingwood into the covers, in the middle of the 43rd over.
But the wicket was the signal for Ferguson, together with Michael Hussey and James Hopes, to play some inventive shots and create some desperately needed momentum.
England's fielders, immaculate up until the final stages, gave their opponents a few extra runs towards the end.
However, Andrew Strauss's bowlers were uniformly impressive, among them Collingwood, whose accurate off-cutters brought him the wicket of Shane Watson - caught and bowled off a leading edge for 46 - before he then returned to deceive Clarke.
Australia's top three had a curious look to it, with Watson partnered by Tim Paine, the young Tasmanian wicketkeeper, and Cameron White coming in at three.
Paine ran himself out in the third over, foolishly taking on Collingwood's arm at backward point.
Lee bowled three no-balls but also took the key wicket of Strauss
Watson and White, arguably better suited to playing the big shots at the end of the innings, tried to play with greater responsibility and took 95 balls to add 82.
Watson was the first to fall, and White (53) did not last significantly longer, looking for a second to Graeme Swann at fine-leg and finding himself an inch short of the crease when Matt Prior whipped off the bails.
The stage appeared set for Clarke to play the key innings, but instead 24-year-old Ferguson, hitting his best score in a fledgling ODI career, was the major contributor.
England's innings was a similarly stuttering affair, particularly at the start where they crawled through the first 15 overs to reach 60-1, 20 fewer than Australia had managed in the same segment.
By then, Strauss had nibbled a fiery Brett Lee to slip, leaving Prior and Ravi Bopara to build the innings. Neither hit enough boundaries, and when the slow bowlers were able to get into the match the required rate soon crept up to six an over.
Prior then departed, though he was a little unfortunate when middling a reverse-sweep to short third-man having hit 28 from 47 balls.
Finally a batsman came in who looked busy from the off, Owais Shah quickly hitting Lee out of the attack with two fine boundaries.
But he could not lift the sluggish Bopara, whose torture finally ended on 49 after an innings that had soaked up 88 balls. He was well stumped by Paine off Hauritz, and almost looked relieved to head back to the pavilion.
With Collingwood joining Shah, England quickly needed seven and then eight runs an over to win.
Shah remained positive, pulling Johnson for his fourth boundary, but when playing the next ball to the leg-side he inadvertently dragged his heel onto the base of his stumps to fall for 40 from 48 balls.
That left Collingwood and Wright needing 100 off 75 balls, but few risks were being taken and as the first boos began to ring out, Collingwood pulled Johnson to the leaping Watson at midwicket.
Wright hit Watson for a towering six, but Stuart Broad popped up a catch to backward point to give Johnson a third wicket.
When England finally took the batting powerplay, they needed a seemingly impossible 82 from 48 balls. But Wright, eagerly assisted by Rashid, finally got the home fans cheering with some meaty hitting.
However, he was run out off a Lee no-ball, Paine throwing down the stumps as Wright thought about setting off for a single.
A couple of lucky strikes from Sidebottom in Lee's final over, which cost 14, set up the dramatic final over.
And when Rashid pulled Nathan Bracken for four the umpires should have called no-ball for a high full-toss.
But there was no extra run or extra delivery and the last ball was a perfect yorker from which Sidebottom could collect only a single.
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