|Second ODI, Brisbane|
|Australia 270-9 (50.0 overs): Finch 106, Root 2-31|
|England 274-6 (44.2 overs): Bairstow 60, Hales 57, Root 46*, Starc 4-59|
|England won by four wickets|
England held their nerve to take a 2-0 lead in the one-day international series with a four-wicket victory over Australia at Brisbane.
Set 271 to win after Aaron Finch hit 106, the tourists eased to 119-1 only to be checked by the wickets of Alex Hales, Jonny Bairstow and Eoin Morgan.
Joe Root and Jos Buttler rebuilt before Mitchell Starc removed the wicketkeeper and Moeen Ali in quick succession.
But Root and Chris Woakes calmly guided England home with 34 balls to spare.
Despite those wobbles during the chase, it was a largely commanding performance by Morgan’s side, who bowled superbly to restrict Australia on a good Gabba pitch that offered turn.
England can now clinch the five-match series with victory in the third ODI at Sydney on Sunday.
Spin trio torment Australia
The basis for England’s victory was a self-assured bowling display, backed up by shrewd captaincy from Morgan.
After David Warner and Finch made an untroubled start against pace, Morgan turned to spin, with Moeen finding turn straight away and removing Warner, who edged to Root at first slip for 35.
Adil Rashid was then duly introduced to the attack, before part-time off-spinner Root also came on and bowled brilliantly, trapping Australia captain Steve Smith lbw for 18 and taking an easy return catch to dismiss the skittish Travis Head for seven.
With Moeen and Root providing both control and threat, Morgan could keep attacking with Rashid even when the leg-spinner started to leak runs. The reward was the key wickets of Mitchell Marsh, stumped for 36, and Marcus Stoinis, caught behind by Buttler for four, to prevent the hosts making a late surge.
Liam Plunkett returned to remove Finch for his 100th ODI wicket, while Woakes bowled tightly at the death, also displaying fine footwork to run out debutant keeper Alex Carey (27) by kicking the ball onto the stumps as Cameron White (15 not out) tried to take an ill-advised single.
Woakes then also ran out Andrew Tye off the final ball of the innings to limit the hosts to 270-9, once again 30 or so runs short of a challenging target.
England’s depth comes to the fore
Even with a target of under 300, England’s batsmen stuck to their attacking approach. Jason Roy was caught for just two after his record 180 in the first ODI, but Bairstow (60) and Hales (57) combined superbly to put their side firmly on top in a stand of 117.
They were out in quick succession with Hales playing a lazy shot to chop a quick delivery from impressive debutant Jhye Richardson onto his stumps, while Bairstow was caught needlessly trying to loft over the in-field.
Captain Morgan, who made a decent start, was also beaten for pace in being bowled by Starc for 21 via an inside edge to leave England 157-4.
Yet England have the batting depth to withstand such stumbles. Root accumulated runs in his customary fashion, while Buttler hit an entertaining 42 before he edged Starc behind to Carey.
Left-arm paceman Starc then bowled Moeen with a fearsome yorker to finish with figures of 4-59.
With Starc having bowled his allotted overs, England looked unlikely to collapse further, not least because Woakes came in at number eight and played an innings befitting a top-order batsman, hitting 39 off just 27 balls, including a lofted boundary to secure the win.
Morgan exuded confidence in stating he would have bowled first even if he had not lost the toss. A second assured chase in as many matches proves why.
Australia’s selection backfires
After just six overs of England’s innings, Smith brought on the part-time off-spin of Head, underlining how the hosts had misread the pitch and made a crucial selection error.
Leg-spinner Adam Zampa was dropped in favour of White, making just his second ODI appearance since 2011. While White bowls occasional leg-spin, he was not one of the seven bowlers Smith used, the skipper instead having to rely on Head and the nondescript slow left arm of Finch.
Where five of nine wickets fell to spin in Australia’s innings, the hosts failed to exploit a turning track. No England batsman was remotely troubled by Head or Finch, while the tourists were able to outlast the excellent pace duo Starc and Richardson, who both bowled out before the end.
It all reflected how Australia are lacking conviction as a one-day side. They made three changes, yet produced a similar performance to their five-wicket defeat in the first match.
Finch consolidated and accumulated supremely to hit his second straight century, but again he was left without adequate support and dismissed while trying to accelerate the scoring shortly after reaching three figures.
The other batsmen seemed unsure how to approach their innings, with increasing desperation resulting in diminishing returns as Head and White wafted away but rarely connected. Australia scored just 57 off the last 10 overs.
Ultimately they needed a destructive middle-order batsman and a solid spin option. To many, that would describe all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, who was left out of the squad, with his consistency and training publicly questioned by Smith.
‘England are a joy to watch’ – what they said
Man of the match Joe Root: “It’s always nice to contribute with the ball. It probably spun more than we thought it might. I managed to sneak some overs in – and it went quite nicely.”
England captain Eoin Morgan: “I’d like to think we’ll get better as we go on but today was an outstanding bowling performance.
“It was far from our best performance with the bat. We are still looking for the complete batting performance – hopefully we’ll get it on Sunday. Certainly the confidence is in the dressing room at the moment.”
Former England batsman James Taylor: “England are a joy to watch – they’re powerful, they’re destructive, they’re dominant and they’ve got match-winners throughout their side – but they’re also smart.”
Australia captain Steve Smith: “We’re not playing good enough one-day cricket. We’re not playing smart enough cricket.
“We were in a pretty good position but we only scored about 60 off the final 11 overs and that’s not good enough against a quality England side.”