Fifth one-day international, Trent Bridge: Australia 302-6 beat England 299 by four wickets Match scorecard
By Oliver Brett
Ponting played some magnificent shots in a beautifully-paced innings
A Ricky Ponting masterclass consigned England to their fifth defeat in the one-day series and kept Australia on course for a landmark 7-0 whitewash.
Eoin Morgan (58 off 41 balls) helped England to 299, their second-best total in ODI cricket against the old enemy.
But on a cracking Trent Bridge wicket, Ponting hit 126 from 109 balls and Michael Clarke 52 in a stand of 133.
Late wickets gave England a glimmer of hope but Australia won by four wickets with 10 balls remaining.
Victories in the final two games on Thursday and Sunday will see the Aussies knock South Africa off the top of the world rankings and ensure they approach the ICC Champions Trophy at the end of the month in good shape.
The difference between the two sides was Ponting, whose break following the Ashes defeat appears to have done his game a world of good.
He hit 14 fours, and played some beautiful checked drives, three of which disappeared into the stands for six.
In his industrious partnership with Clarke, he kept the required rate comfortably in check, and though wickets fell late in the innings - including Ponting's - enough damage had been done to ensure Cameron White and Mitchell Johnson could nurse Australia home without taking dramatic risks.
England, with Luke Wright injured following a bowling-machine accident, called up his emergency replacement Dimitri Mascarenhas in their only change from the side thrashed at Lord's on Saturday.
The Aussies also made one change, resting the leading wicket-taker in the series, Brett Lee, to give Peter Siddle his first start.
Strauss won the toss again, making it an astonishing nine out of 10 successful spins taking the Ashes and one-dayers together, and after a pedestrian first four overs, he and Joe Denly finally made some headway against the seamers.
The 12th over was bowled by Nathan Hauritz, who had removed Strauss three times already in the series. And the off-spinner took just eight deliveries to send England's skipper back to the pavilion again, though only via a dubious lbw decision from umpire Asad Rauf.
That left England on 61-1 in the 14th over, a decent enough platform but exactly the sort that has been frittered away by this team in recent times.
Ravi Bopara's desperate run of form continued when he swung loosely across the line at Shane Watson to give deep square leg a straightforward catch, and with Denly struggling, England limped to 100-2 from the last ball of the 21st over.
Five runs and nine balls later, Denly followed Bopara back to the pavilion for 45, playing the same sort of ill-conceived shot his fellow right-hander had attempted.
There was, however, some nice momentum provided in a 60-run partnership from 66 balls between Matt Prior and Owais Shah.
Frustratingly, Prior could not play a major innings, stumped on 37 one ball after he had driven Hauritz through wide mid-off for his third boundary.
Shah was also dismissed in the 30s, gently wafting Johnson to wicketkeeper Tim Paine when the batting powerplay was on and something more aggressive was required.
But England shook off that setback to add 34 runs in just three overs, including a pulled six by Morgan off Watson.
Morgan, badly dropped in the deep by Michael Hussey on 38, continued to play some fine shots and reached his first half-century for England with an enormous six off Nathan Bracken, a brilliantly manufactured drive-cum-slog-sweep.
Though the Dublin-born left-hander was unable to stay to the end of the innings, Stuart Broad (22) and Adil Rashid (18) also played some entertaining shots over the closing overs.
Eighteen runs came from the first five balls of the final over, bowled by Johnson, before Rashid was run out off the last ball.
England had clubbed 103 from the final 11 overs, but the hard-hitting flurry - much of it coming from the lower order - simply underlined the quality of the batting surface.
Australia began their chase with the floodlights taking effect for the first time - and Paine and Watson gifted simple catches into the infield off the bowling of Tim Bresnan inside the first 15 overs. Then Ponting came in and immediately looked a class apart as he drilled Ryan Sidebottom for a straight four.
Clarke began scratchily, but England's bowlers were getting nothing out of the wicket and Australia were sitting in, waiting for the mandatory ball change after 34 overs. When it came, Ponting immediately hit the harder ball for two successive driven sixes off Rashid and soon eased to his century.
Finally Clarke departed to a catch in the deep off Rashid, and Hussey chipped the deserving Mascarenhas to mid-off, leaving 70 wanted from the last 10 overs.
Broad came back with two wickets in an over - Callum Ferguson was lbw and Ponting finally departed too, lofting a catch to Shah at deep mid-off.
But the next over, the 45th, was a good one for the Aussies. They were helped by a shocking four byes conceded by Prior, and that left a very gettable 28 needed from the last 30 balls with four wickets in hand.
Prior was not alone on a night when England's ground fielding was way below the standards expected of an international side - something Strauss would later touch on in the post-match presentation.
The final error came from Mascarenhas at mid-off, conceding three runs needlessly, and the winning hit came when Johnson smashed Sidebottom for six over long-on.
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