Eoin Morgan’s century in vain as Australia snatch dramatic victory
Faulkner’s late hitting continues England’s tale of woe Down Under
England batsman Eoin Morgan celebrates after scoring a century during the second One-Day International against Australia at The Gabba in Brisbane. Photograph: Bradley Kanaris/Getty Images
Oh, England. So close. But still so very, very far away. There have been precious few moments of grace for England’s cricketers over the past 11 weeks and they were denied one at the Gabba in the most agonising of circumstances as Alastair Cook and his team found a new and yet more painful way to lose a cricket match, snatching ignominious defeat from the jaws of what would have been a first international victory after 84 days of this traumatic tour.
In the event, Australia won the second one-day international by one wicket after a breathtaking long-range finish to steal a match that looked set in England’s favour, with Australia on 244 for nine and still needing 57 to win. Spurred on by a pyrotechnic century by Eoin Morgan, England’s total of 300 had looked a significant step towards erasing the distant prospect of a multi-format Australian summer whitewash. Instead, England were simply blown away by a superb match-winning innings of 69 from 47 balls by James Faulkner, who hit five sixes, all of them off Ben Stokes, and towards the end reeled in the total with a sense of gathering inevitability.
If Faulkner produced a superb finisher’s innings, it must also be said that England’s bowling was callow and Cook’s captaincy flat at vital moments. It was not possible to discover the reasons why Chris Jordan, who had bowled with pace and control with the new ball, did not return at the death because Cook failed to appear afterwards to discuss the defeat. Either way, it was a fateful decision: Stokes, who had just been hit for three sixes by Faulkner, went for two more in the crucial penultimate over, attempting to bowl full at the stumps but instead producing an eminently hittable good length.
These are really details though. The larger picture is that England conceded a record total on this ground to lose to a team that was nine wickets down, with the finish all but out of sight. There are defeats and there are defeats. England are only 2-0 down in this series, having played well here right up until the final 10 overs, when all the old unscabbed wounds were gouged open once again by the aggression of Faulkner’s batting. They will find it desperately hard to lift themselves after this.
If there was an element of farce to the final knockings, there was also something a little jarring about Eoin Morgan’s insistence afterwards that England would “take the positives” from their seventh consecutive defeat on tour. Cook, too, was defiantly upbeat when he spoke to the TV cameras. “When we look at it tomorrow morning in the cold light of day, it was an astonishing innings that beat us,” he said. “I’m proud of the way we got stuck in but little things needed to go our way and they didn’t.”
England had won the toss and batted first on a hot, humid day and played an unchanged team, leaving themselves again light on bowling without a front-line spinner. It felt, as every occasion does these days, as if it was a huge occasion for Cook as he walked out to open the innings.