Then Sam Curran – brought back for the 40th over with the visitors needing 67 from 66 with four wickets in hand – struck with consecutive balls, Pat Cummins (11) chopping on then Mitch Starc nicking behind. Going on to win the top edge of Adam Zampa (2), there was little Alex Carey could do having surveyed the damage from the non-strikers’ end, the last man out in the 49th over for 36, the hosts levelling the series with their stoic 24-run triumph.
The dismay for Finch is compounded by the fact that they had England 8/149 in the 41st over, having to that point bowled superbly, banking seven maidens along the way with Hazlewood and Zampa completing their full allotment for 1/27 and 3/36 respectively.
However, Tom Curran (37) and Adil Rashid (35 not out from 26 balls) made sure they would have something to bowl adding 76 in 57 balls for the ninth wicket through the death, 44 clobbered in the final three overs with Cummins and Marsh taken for 18 and 16 from the 49th and 50th.
Archer’s (3/34) initial burst continued the fightback in style, finding Warner’s outside edge – the seventh time he has dismissed the opener in international cricket. The snorter that followed to Stoinis was unplayable. But once that spell was negotiated, Finch found the perfect partner in Labuschagne to carefully tick the board over.
Their accumulation wasn’t faultness – Finch could have been run out by Eoin Morgan and Labuschagne should have been by Jason Roy – but the equation was down to a very comfortable 88 from 116 balls when the No.4 was trapped by Woakes (3/32) to start the calamitous and irrecoverable run of wickets.
Australia again took the field without Steve Smith, Finch saying the decision to give him another rest after his head knock at training on Thursday was in order to be “ultra-cautious” with their usual No.3 despite having passed two concussion tests.
But Hazlewood and co didn’t miss a beat with the ball, picking up from where they left off on Friday with Bairstow caught behind off Starc (2/38) for a duck then Roy ran out by a Stoinis direct hit after a mix-up with Joe Root, who himself was caught at slip from Zampa’s first ball.
The middle-over squeeze continued principally due to the tweaker, trapping Morgan with a lovely scrambled-seam top-spinner – overturned in favour of the Australians through DRS – then bowling Sam Billings, Friday’s century-maker, with a flat legbreak.
Hazlewood finished his spell before England’s final rally when Cummins’ (1/56) earlier frugal efforts – which included removing Jos Buttler (3) lbw, were undone by some fine straight hitting.
“It’s a tough one to get your head around,” Cummins said after the game.
“We bowled really well then let them off the hook in the last 10 overs. That’s where we could have kept them under 200 and gave them an extra 40 or 50 runs. And then, chasing, Finchy and Marnus were going along really nicely on a tough wicket to start on. But unfortunately, we couldn’t get through that period and finish it off. So, it’s a disappointing end to the night.”
But Cummins added that playing on worn surfaces is helpful preparation for tournaments when they are more commonplace.
“It was more like a day four or five Test wicket where it is a bit up and down. Once you were in, you could get there, but it also felt you could squeeze and it didn’t have that true bounce you can normally expect here. Having fielded 50 overs we knew that the last 80 or 90 runs were going to be hard work as the ball got softer.”
Had Australia held their nerve, it would have broken a run of 13 straight series wins for the world champions in this format.
But on account of their win on Friday, they get another opportunity on a fresh pitch when the teams meet again for their final fling on Wednesday.