Australia run chase shocks England in Sydney one-dayer
Sixth one-day international, Sydney: Australia 334-8 (49.2 overs) beat England 333-6 (50 overs) by 2 wickets Match scorecard
Australia captain Clarke scored a crucial 82 to help his side to a last-over win
By Phil Dawkes
Australia beat England by two wickets as they achieved their highest one-day international run chase and took a 5-1 lead in the seven-match series.
In an improved England batting display in Sydney, Jonathan Trott scored 137 to set a total of 333-6 - their highest against Australia in one-dayers.
The home side's reply began positively, thanks largely to Shane Watson's 51.
England halted the hosts' progress with regular wickets, but Michael Clarke's 82 helped his side to a final-over win.
Australia's score of 334-8 is also their highest one-day total against England and the fourth highest run-chase by any side in ODI history, emphasising further the gulf that exists between these two sides.
Fuelled by their Ashes success, England came into these one-day internationals looking to build towards what seemed a genuinely realistic 2011 World Cup challenge, but due to poor form and fitness, such buoyant optimism has diminished in conjunction with their hopes of victory over these seven limited-overs matches.
Four defeats from the first five games made this, and the final encounter in Perth on Sunday, dead rubbers, but with pride to restore and World Cup starting places to secure, they remain important fixtures. And despite the defeat, the tourists can take many positives from an improved showing to that in Brisbane last Sunday.
In truth, the match did not demonstrate anything we did not already know about England: Matt Prior remains a vulnerable opener, Andrew Strauss is a positive presence but prone to weak dismissals, Trott and Ian Bell are in superb form and Kevin Pietersen is not.
However, it is a timely boost for the team to post such a big total - their largest in one-dayers against Australia and their joint-sixth highest of all time - albeit on a superb track.
It was not a strong England bowling performance overall, with attack-leader James Anderson particularly expensive, going for 1-91 from his 10 overs.
But on a good pitch - that will bear no similarity to that in the subcontinent - with two of the potential five bowlers for the World Cup sidelined through injury and Paul Collingwood's contribution with the ball completely nullified due to a back problem incurred in the first innings, it is difficult to use this as a wholly accurate barometer for future matches.
Collingwood was not the only injury concern during what was a gruelling encounter: Pietersen also spent time away from the action after slipping in the field and Trott needed a runner late in his innings due to cramp.
Having won the toss and opted to bat, the tourists made a tame and - in Prior's case - a somewhat nervy start to the innings, with the right-hander twice just evading fielders with attempted pulls from Brett Lee.
But as the Sussex man seemed to have weathered the storm, he attempted to work a slight inswinger from Mitchell Johnson to leg and was bowled off his pads for 18.
At the other end, captain Strauss was a steadying influence, playing with calculated aggression to make his 26th one-day 50, during which he established a promising stand with Trott.
However, with the pair primed to kick on, Strauss came down the track to Steven Smith and with an attempted lofted stroke to leg was caught low down at mid-wicket by David Hussey for 63.
Trott's 137 is his highest one-day international score
Pietersen's arrival gave England a more balanced batting pair, with the newcomer playing aggressor to Trott's pragmatist and the pair honoured their respective roles well to establish another good partnership.
This was undone in the first ball of the batting power-play when Lee returned with a replaced ball to have Pietersen caught by Smith at mid-off via a mistimed drive.
Fresh impetus was provided by Ian Bell, who accompanied Trott on route to his run-a-ball 100, while attacking with real purpose and inventiveness to add further credence to the argument that he should open the innings in place of Prior.
He and Trott added 104 runs in just over 11 overs together at a run-rate over two runs better than the team overall, before the Warwickshire man hit a flat, off-side swipe straight to Clarke at extra-cover off Shaun Tait.
Eoin Morgan provided a flashy little end-of-innings cameo but the overall plaudits belong to Trott, who amassed his highest score in ODIs and the biggest by an England batsman on this ground in one-day internationals.
He benefitted from a review on an leg before wicket decision from Tait shortly after Pietersen was out - with replays showing the ball was missing down leg - but barring this, his classy innings was calm and composed.
In contrast to England, Australia began firmly on the front foot, with Watson in typically cavalier mood, as they dominated England's bowlers and raced to 50 before the end of the sixth over.
Anderson found the going particularly tough but it was he who made the initial breakthrough, drawing a leg-side flick from Brad Haddin which gave Trott the chance to belie his previous exertions to acrobatically catch at short fine leg.
Immediately after the wicket, Strauss brought Michael Yardy into the attack and the decision paid dividend five overs later when Watson - who by this point had passed 50 at a strike-rate of 150 - sought to whip the spinner through leg but instead found the England captain, who claimed a diving catch at mid-wicket.
In a surprise move, Australia sent in Johnson as a pinch-hitting replacement for Watson and it worked superbly as he and Callum Ferguson added 79 between them to take Australia half-way towards their target and seemingly in control of the match.
This remained the case even when Ferguson inexplicably set off from the non-striker's end for a non-existent single and was run out four short of his half-century by Prior before he could scurry back and Johnson was stumped off Pietersen shortly after for 57.
Such was the momentum the home side had maintained throughout their innings, they were also able to absorb the loss of Cameron White - caught by Morgan off Steven Finn - and continue to push on.
That they were able to do so was largely thanks to Clarke, who put his recent poor form firmly behind him and built on the 54 he scored at Brisbane with a superb 82 off 70 balls.
He was ably assisted by Hussey, who scored 38 before he was caught behind by Prior off Finn - one of two wickets for the Middlesex seamer who finished with figures of 2-51 in 10 overs.
Smith - for whom Haddin was a runner - was run out by Finn for a duck to briefly raise England's hopes and Clarke fell soon after to another run out, this time by Trott, but Lee and John Hastings kept cool heads to see Australia to victory with four balls to spare.
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