England's spin trio and Eoin Morgan's bold captaincy inspire Gabba victory
"That England's spinners contributed five wickets and 24 overs between them only served to highlight the peculiarity of Australia's decision to drop Adam Zampa"
By Sam Drury
Last Updated: 20/01/18 11:58am
Steve Smith spoke of wanting to run England off their feet after winning the toss. Instead, he ended the day wondering how Australia can stop them running away with the series.
Even as Aaron Finch was easing through to his second century of this ODI series, England never allowed Australia to get away from them and when the time came for the hosts to kick on, a combination of intelligent bowling and bold captaincy saw the innings crumble.
Mitchell Starc and Jhye Richardson took timely wickets to keep Australia interested but, in truth, England were able to cruise for much of their chase, their target of 271 a modest one in the modern game, especially on such a batsman-friendly surface.
The Australian openers proved the quality of the Gabba pitch in the initial exchanges, Mark Wood bowling with the same speed and aggression as in Melbourne but, without the extra zip of that wicket, Finch and David Warner were happy to attack anything short and did so with aplomb.
By the final over of the powerplay, Eoin Morgan had seen enough and introduced spin for the first time in the game.
With Finch and Warner going well and fielding restrictions still in place, turning to Moeen Ali was a brave move by Morgan but such decisions have come to define his captaincy and the off-spinner did not let him down.
Maintaining a tight line while varying his pace, Ali conceded just two from the over, matching England's most economical in the powerplay.
Four came from the first three balls of his next over but Morgan persisted with a slip and was rewarded. Warner pushed forward, Ali found some turn and with it the edge, enabling Joe Root to take a sharp catch.
Finch was joined by Smith and the pair looked to get after Adil Rashid, each hitting a maximum before the leg-spinner was withdrawn.
Rather than revert to seam though, Morgan kept faith with spin and Root needed just four balls to trap Smith in front. His third over brought the wicket of Travis Head, a run-rate that had been hovering around six had been squeezed to five while the England Test captain's figures of 2-31 from seven overs showed he is much more than a mere part-time tweaker.
Australia will have felt they were well placed with two set batsmen and seven wickets in hand as they approached the last 10 overs but the control of both Root and Ali had made working through the gears near-impossible.
Boundaries had been hard to come by and when the final assault did come, it was from a standing start and England were ready and waiting to pounce.
Control has never been Rashid's strength, indeed it is the perceived lack of it that has seen him disappear from the Test reckoning, but taking wickets has rarely proved difficult for him.
He accounted for the big-hitting duo of Marsh and Marcus Stoinis, more than making up for a pair of expensive overs to finish as Morgan entrusted him with six of the last 15 overs.
Up against lower-order batsmen, new to the crease, Wood and, in particular, Chris Woakes kept the scoring opportunities to a minimum as they rounded out the innings and kept England well on top, ensuring the work of the spinners didn't go to waste.
That Ali, Root and Rashid contributed five wickets and 24 overs between them only served to highlight the peculiarity of Australia's decision to drop their only frontline spinner, Adam Zampa: the leggie's omission made all the more glaring by the early introductions of Head and Finch to the bowling attack when England began their reply.
By that stage, Starc had sent Jason Roy back to the pavilion, any chance of a repeat of the opener's record-breaking antics in Melbourne snuffed out in the first over of the chase.
Jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales were quickly about their work though and their stand of 117 had the tourists well on track, Head and Finch offering neither the control nor the threat of England's spin trio - 10 overs, 0-72 their combined figures.
The Aussies only real threat came through their new ball pairing, they accounted for all six of the England wickets, but had bowled out long before the end as Smith was forced to stay on the attack.
Bairstow and Hales each fell soon after passing 50 but if the door had been opened ever so slightly for Australia, Root and Jos Buttler quickly slammed it shut with a partnership of 68.
Starc eventually made the breakthrough but even when he bowled Ali with a fabulous yorker later in the over, the last of his 10, England's batting depth meant they remained firmly in control.
An enjoyable cameo from Woakes got England over the line and while they celebrated a spin-inspired victory, Australia's selectors were left to ponder the cost of perhaps their first error of the series.