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Shane Watson century too much for England in Melbourne

First one-day international, Melbourne:
Australia 297-4 (49.1 ovs) beat England 294 (49.4 ovs) by six wickets
Match scorecard

Watson's innings was one of the very best in ODI cricket
Watson's innings was one of the very best in ODI cricket

By Oliver Brett

Shane Watson hit a majestic century for Australia as they won the opening one-day international against England with five balls to spare in Melbourne.

Kevin Pietersen struck 78 in a total of 294 as England were bowled out with two balls of their innings remaining.

It was their highest total against Australia on their turf, but Watson got the hosts home on 161 not out from 150 balls, as they won by six wickets.

It was the highest successful run chase ever witnessed at the iconic MCG.

And, exactly 40 years after the first one-day international was played on the same ground, Watson appropriately produced the winning hit, smashing the first ball of the final over for six over long-on.

Australia were some way short of their best in the field, their bowlers sending down 12 wides, while wicketkeeper Brad Haddin missed three stumpings.

But when it came to chasing down the runs, Haddin (39 in an opening stand of 110 with Watson) and Michael Clarke, who made a boundary-free 36 in another big stand worth 107, could afford to take a back seat as Watson coped with tiredness and cramp to smash 12 fours and four sixes under the floodlights.

It was a brilliant display of ball-striking by the big hitting Queenslander.

Kevin Pietersen
Pietersen's 78 from 75 balls was a welcome sight for England fans

Five of Watson's boundaries came in each of the first five overs as Australia got on top of the required run rate. It took a long time for England, whose attack lacked the rested James Anderson and injured Stuart Broad, to gain a foothold.

In the 20th over, Haddin attempted to launch Swann for six but could only give Ajmal Shahzad a simple catch at deep square-leg.

Watson, dropped by Jonathan Trott at mid-on off Chris Tremlett at 48, continued to play the aggressor when out-of-form captain Michael Clarke came to the crease.

Clarke was shockingly booed by his home supporters when playing out dot balls, but with the required run-rate approaching eight an over, Watson smashed Yardy for consecutive leg-side sixes en route to his highest ODI score to relieve the pressure.

Wickets eventually came England's way at the other end, Clarke and Steve Smith hitting catches into the off-side, before Mike Hussey became the third Australian to fall in the batting powerplay.

Just as England threatened to take the game to the wire, Trott dropped his second catch - Cameron White the man missed at deep square-leg.

Watson, whose innings was the fifth highest by an Australian in one-day internationals, brought up his 150 with his 12th four, reducing the equation to 17 runs needed from 20 balls.

And he continued to run England's fielders ragged, until Shahzad was lined up to bowl the final over with just four wanted for Australia to take a 1-0 lead in the series. By then, the result was inevitable, though Watson was able to finish it off in emphatic style.

If there was one crumb of comfort for England to take to the second match of seven in Hobart on Friday, it was the innings of Pietersen produced in registering his first half-century in international 50-over cricket since 2008.

Michael Yardy is caught off Doug Bollinger
Australia celebrate as Michael Yardy is dismissed in the 40th over

Having been dropped for the summer series against Pakistan to rediscover a bit of form at domestic level, he was unsurprisingly named in England's side after the tourists had won the toss.

What did come as something of a shock, however, was the exclusion of Paul Collingwood, despite the poor batting form of England's Twenty20 captain.

Collingwood's vast experience, plus his expertise in bowling and fielding was overlooked in favour of a straightforward six batsmen, five bowler policy - Trott and Ian Bell both appearing in the middle order either side of Pietersen at four.

Andrew Strauss hit 63 in a bright stand of 90 from 12 overs with fellow left-hander Steve Davies (42) for the first wicket.

Davies played some lovely shots, but had plenty of luck as Australia produced a sloppy fielding performance, in which Haddin was the worst offender.

The home team's wicketkeeper, who was unhappy to have been overlooked in favour of Tim Paine for the Twenty20 matches, had ample time to complete any one of the three stumpings he was presented with.

Haddin's most serious error came with England on 186-5 and Pietersen on 37. David Hussey, who had surprisingly removed both Davies and Trott (6), was the unfortunate bowler - all the more so as Pietersen decided to make Australia pay immediately.

In the same over he should have been stumped, Pietersen advanced down the track to launch consecutive straight sixes off Hussey, and England seemed to be set fair for a score in excess of 300.

That was despite Bell (23) having played a loose cover-drive to be caught off the leg-spin of Smith, and Eoin Morgan (8) also hitting a catch into the infield off Smith.

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With 11 overs to go England were 232-5, but Australia finally woke from their slumber. Yardy pulled Doug Bollinger to deep square-leg, and Pietersen was run out by Mitchell Johnson's kick on to the stumps in the first over of the batting power-play.

That dismissal instantly put a score of 300-plus out of range, though Tim Bresnan (28 from 27 balls) did his bit, while Shahzad and Tremlett each hit a six.

Later, all three would be put to the sword by Watson, whose innings was later described by Strauss as "one of the great one-day innings."



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