Australia stand-in captain Steve Smith overshadowed Ian Bell’s highest ever One Day International score of 141 as the hosts beat England by three wickets thanks to an unbeaten century by the in-form 25-year-old.
That means the world’s number one ranked ODI side have qualified for the tri-series final after winning their opening three games leaving England to battle with India to join Australia in the final.
Smith played a superb captains knock, finishing on 102 not out from just 95 balls to guide his side to victory with just one ball to spare in Hobart after reaching 304-7.
England set their opponents an imposing score largely thanks to the aforementioned Bell who led from the front in taking the attack to Australia by plundering 15 boundaries and one six in his total of 141 from just 125 balls.
Moeen Ali also played his part in setting Eoin Morgan’s men a platform at the top of the order as he scored 46 out of a 113-run partnership before James Faulkner removed him just shy of a fourth ODI half century.
James Taylor was not as fluid and Moises Henriques dismissed him thanks to a catch by Faulkner for just five which brought the Yorkshireman Joe Root to the crease who batted for almost 20 overs together at more than a run a ball.
In that time England’s top scorer reached his fourth ODI hundred off just 92 balls as a timely reminder of his class in the 50-over game. He then kicked on after raising his bat in celebration to continue his knock into a big hundred until Gurinder Sandhu had him well caught by Mitchell Starc for 141.
The Warwickshire batsman actually reached three huge ODI milestones in his innings, his highest ever score was made as he moved past 5,000 career runs while becoming the highest ever run scorer for England by surpassing Paul Collingwood’s total of 5,092.
Unfortunately for the tourist’s, as soon as Bell was sent back to the dressing room their momentum came to a halt and despite being in a great position at 253-3 from 41.2 overs, England could only manage another 50 runs from the last eight overs.
That wasn’t helped when Sandhu made it two wickets in three balls as captain Morgan was out for a golden duck which brought exciting wicketkeeper batsman Jos Buttler to the crease to join Root who had cruised past his 50 off 56 balls.
Tight bowling by the Australians forced the middle order into errors as and when Root departed for 69 only Buttler managed to score at better than a strike rate of 100. Even in the last over it looked like England would set a total of over 310 but the last three deliveries ended in Bopara being bowled by Starc followed by run-outs for Buttler and Woakes.
Aaron Finch and Shaun Marsh got Australia off to a rapid start until Ali bowled Finch for 32 in the 12th over with the score 76-1 which brought Smith to the middle.
However, it was Steven Finn’s introduction that caused some major issues to the top-order as he had Marsh caught at backward point by Bell before yorking Cameron White second ball to trap him in front lbw in just his second over.
Smith then forged crucial partnerships with Glenn Maxwell (37), Faulkner (35) and Brad Haddin (42) but credit to Morgan’s men who forced Australia into the final over which Chris Woakes held the responsibility of. After two dot balls Henriques played the ball straight to Taylor who hit the stumps to run him out with just two required.
Two singles then followed with Starc hitting the winning runs to leave the hosts top of the tri-series table with a game to play.
England play India in Perth next Friday with the winner certain to make the final at the WACA which takes place on Sunday 1st February.
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