It was also Hazlewood who landed the final and vital hammerblow, the wicket of Moeen Ali (6) coming in his final over to leave Billings too much to do with the lower order, out on the final ball of the night for 118 from 110 balls, his first international century. When the 50 overs expired, the world champions were 9-275. Zampa added Chris Woakes to his bag, finishing with 4-55, the best ODI figures for an Australian wrist spinner against England.
Earlier, Australia were in early strife themselves at 5-123 in the 24th over when Marsh and Maxwell came together. To that point, David Warner (6) was bowled by Jofra Archer beauty, Finch (16) edged Mark Wood’s and Marcus Stoinis (43) did likewise before Marnus Labuschagne (21) and Alex Carey (10) were both deceived by Adil Rashid. Morgan’s decision to insert the Australians on a sluggish tracked looked a good one.
But the steady build between the pair neutralised the constant challenge posed by Rashid, their 100-run partnership raised in 102 balls – all the more important given Steve Smith’s absence, ruled out after being hit on the head at training on Thursday. Passing 50 in 43 deliveries, the enterprising Maxwell then exploded, launching Archer for consecutive sixes to begin the 44th over. The Victorian chopped on for 77 from 59 but the platform was laid at 6-249.
Marsh was Archer’s third victim, leg before wicket for 73 from 100 balls in the 47th over, but by then his job was also done having steered the ship out of the earlier troubled waters. The captain was especially thrilled given Australia’s need for stability in the middle order.
“It was a great partnership,” Finch said after the win. “I thought they paced it really well. They went to attack and to soak up some pressure and then played two smart and mature innings. I’m really happy for the two of them to both get some runs.”
Mitchell Starc then stuck the landing, hitting a six off Chris Woakes to finish the innings, contributing a handy unbeaten 19 from 12 balls. When bowling later, the left-armer picked up a groin niggle but was fit enough to complete his allotted overs at an economy rate of 4.7.
Billings took his time to warm-up alongside Bairstow in England’s middle overs but put the foot down in the final 10 overs, scoring the majority of the 85 runs the hosts made in the final 10 overs. The 29-year-old’s century was raised in 101 balls, finding the boundary 14 times and clearing it twice. It wasn’t enough to drag them over the line after the dreadful start to the chase, but it lays an important marker against Australia’s quality attack.
“England’s have been the form top order over the last three or four years so it is a good measure of where you are at,” Hazlewood, the player of the match, said. “It was good fun to bowl eight up front and test myself physically too. It’s a simple game for me to just try and hit the top of the stumps and if they want to move around and play a few shots then go for it. But I stick to my plans.”
Asked whether he was still hurting at being left out of Australia’s World Cup squad last year, the 29-year-old said that was all in the rear vision mirror. “It was right up there for me,” he added when addressing whether this was the best he has bowled in an ODI. “I have got a couple of five-fors but I think against this line-up and this top order to bowl that well on this wicket, I’m very happy with how it was coming out.”
The three-game series continues on the same Old Trafford pitch on Sunday.