Millennium Post

Ton-up Smith steers Oz into final

Ton-up Smith steers Oz into final
Skipper Steve Smith smashed an enthralling hundred as Australia recovered from late jitters to enter the cricket tri-series final with a thrilling three-wicket triumph over England on Friday. Smith’s third ODI ton was instrumental in helping the home side chase down a steep target of 304 with one ball to spare after the middle-order failed to offer him steady support.

For England, Ian Bell’s 141-run knock went in vain as Smith stole the thunder, continuing his blistering batting form this season. England would now hope for India to lose Monday’s match to Australia to make the finals. Smith’s knock came off 95 deliveries and included half a dozen fours and a towering six.

Australia’s chase was off to a steady start with openers Aaron Finch (32) and Shaun Marsh (45) sharing a 76-run stand. Finch, who scored at run a ball and struck three fours was yorked by off-spinner Moeen Ali, which was followed by a couple of quick dismissals. From a comfortable, 253/3, the Aussies were reduced to a shaky 275/5 before Smith and Haddin steadied the ship.
However, next man in Smith continued his stupendous run of form even as he struggled to get support at the other end. While Cameron White departed without disturbing the scoreboard, Glenn Maxwell and James Faulkner failed to convert their fine starts.

Maxwell, who looked solid in his 38-ball 37, holed out at deep mid-wicket to Joe Root while attempting a slog sweep off Ali, who was the most economical English bowlers with figures of 2/50 in his 10 overs. Maxwell shared a 69-run fifth-wicket stand with Smith. Faulkner, on the other hand, fell after adding 35 runs to the total and sharing a 55-run partnership with Smith for the sixth wicket. The all-rounder was dismissed by pacer Chris Woakes. Smith finally found a firm partner in vice-captain Brad Haddin, who went full throttle in the last 10 overs to take the pressure off his skipper. Haddin was eventually sent back following a 29-ball 42, during which he smashed four fours and a six.

Australia needed 32 runs off the last five overs and Smith steered the side home after a couple of hiccups threatened to derail the chase.

Earlier, Opener Ian Bell hit a strokeful hundred only to see England lose momentum at the end of their innings at the Bellerive Oval. Put into bat, England rode on a strong 113-run opening stand between Bell, who struck his eight ODI ton, and Moeen Ali (46) to give the visitors a good start only to see the script reverse in the final 10 overs. Ali’s wicket, who missed on a fifty after falling to James Faulkner (1-53) in the 23rd over, was followed by James Taylor (5) as Australia seemed to pull things back a bit. Bell, whose 125-ball innings was laced with 15 fours and a six, though carried on in the same vein, stitching up a 121-run third-wicket partnership with Joe Root (69) to once again expose the chinks in Australia’s bowling armour. Rookie Gurinder Sandhu finally got Bell in the 43rd over to check England’s surge.

BriefScores England 303/8  (Ian Bell 141; Joe Root 69) lost to Australia 304/7 in 49.5 overs (Steven Smith 102*, Shaun Marsh 45, Brad Haddin 42; Moeen Ali 2/50, Chris Woakes 2/58).
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