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Mitch Marsh digs deep to salvage pride for Australia, and the No.1 ranking

Australia 146 for 5 (Marsh 39*, Finch 39, Rashid 3-21) beat England 145 for 6 (Bairstow 55, Denly 29*, Zampa 2-34) by five wickets

A cool-headed knock by Mitchell Marsh handed Australia a consolation win worth more than just that to the tourists in the third and final T20I against England at the Ageas Bowl.

A superb spell from Adil Rashid yielded three wickets and gave Australia a big scare, especially given their failure to chase down a modest target in the opening match of the series. But Marsh, playing his first T20I since February, carried them over the line by five wickets with just three balls to spare with his unbeaten 39 off 36 balls.

There’s nothing like bragging rights (of sorts) being on the line to fire up an Australian team. With England already having sealed the series, Tuesday’s result made it 2-1 but also wrested back the World No.1 ranking in T20Is for Australia. They had lost top spot to England on Sunday when the hosts went 2-0 up in the series with a six-wicket victory, but this will also be a boost for Australia ahead of the three ODIs starting Friday.

Marsh came in with Australia having struggled again in the middle overs against spin and, after two dot balls with the scores tied, he hit the winning run off Chris Jordan, dashing through for a single and narrowly avoiding being run out when the throw to the non-striker’s end was wayward, highlighting England’s struggles in the field all evening.

Rashid spooks Australia

Rashid’s 3 for 21 off his four overs turned what looked like an infinitely achievable run-chase for Australia into a nervy pursuit, which the tourists just managed to pull off after staring down memories of their bungled effort in the first match of the series.

He had to watch catches go down off his bowling, as England fell well short of their gold standard in the field, but stayed supremely focused to claim the key wickets of Aaron Finch, Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell.

Maxwell came in ahead of Smith but was out to a poor attempt at a reverse-scoop off Rashid which went straight to Tom Curran at backward point. After Bairstow had put down a dolly off Finch, Rashid did the job himself, bowling the Australian captain with a stunning googly, and then dismissing Smith with the last ball of his spell with a low caught-and-bowled.

Aussie changes

Matthew Wade’s inclusion came as Australia made three changes, resting David Warner and Pat Cummins and dropping Alex Carey with Marsh and Josh Hazlewood also coming in. That meant Wade, playing his first T20I since February and only his fourth since early 2016, kept and opened.

Wade’s gigantic six off the sixth ball of the innings was something to behold as he clubbed Jofra Archer into the scoreboard at the back of the first tier over deep square leg. And while he didn’t press on, falling to Archer’s pace partner Mark Wood, caught by Jordan for 14 off 9 balls, his belligerence set an early tone for Australia.

Marsh was twice dropped by Malan in the early stages of his knock – once off Joe Denly and once off Rashid. He had arrived with Australia 87 for 4 after Aaron Finch had tried to go inside out to Rashid’s googly, and was bowled through the gate for 39 off 26 balls. Marsh was left with a big job to do when Maxwell and Smith fell cheaply and he did it with authority, marshalling a 46-run partnership with Ashton Agar to see his side home.

England’s sluggish start

England lost Tom Banton on the 11th ball of the match, putting them at 4 for 1 and, while it was the only wicket to fall inside the first six overs, they only managed to reach 33 for 1 by the end of the Powerplay.

It was the lowest Powerplay score by a team in any of the six T20I matches in England this summer, falling one short of England’s 34 for 1 in their first match against Pakistan. The hosts ended up on 145 for 6 which – after scores of 162, 160, 157 and 158 in the previous innings this series – looked a tad short. In contrast, Australia were 61 for 1 at the end of their Powerplay and managed to overhaul the target, despite another troubling mini-collapse.

When the Buttler’s away

Jos Buttler’s family leave left a hole in England’s batting, compounded by Eoin Morgan’s absence after dislocating his finger in the previous match. But that opened the auditions for England’s chorus line in the form of Tom Banton, Sam Billings and Joe Denly. None of them managed to throw themselves into the spotlight, however, and it fell to Jonny Bairstow to anchor their innings, albeit in a less-than-polished performance.

Bairstow’s knock wasn’t his most fluent but he bludgeoned three sixes – including two brutal blows off Adam Zampa over deep square leg and long off – on his way to 55 off 44 balls. He would finish as England’s top-scorer after lofting Agar into no man’s land, only for the bowler to run into space and claim the return catch. Bairstow stepped up as Banton, promoted to open in Buttler’s place, fell for just 2. While his form in the previous series against Pakistan was impressive, this was a missed opportunity for Banton to reaffirm what he can do.

When he fell short, Dawid Malan came to the crease, having enjoyed an excellent time against the Australians – including a Man-of-the-Match-winning 66 in the first encounter of this series – but with his penchant for slow starts under the microscope. He had scored 14 off 14 balls by the end of the seventh over and, just as he began to look like increasing the tempo with a lovely reverse sweep off Agar to the boundary, Zampa enticed a regulation sweep five balls later that sailed towards deep midwicket. Stoinis, running in from the fence, took an excellent catch diving forward to end Malan’s knock at 21 off 18.

Billings fell cheaply when he gloved a reverse off Zampa to slip for just 4, leaving his 87 against West Indies 18 months ago as his only T20I score of note since his 53 against Pakistan in 2015. In a similar vein to Bairstow, Denly’s unbeaten 29 off 19 looks fine on the page but lacked conviction when translated to the stage. Morgan’s absence handed the captaincy to Moeen Ali, who contributed 23 off 21.

Source Cricket news from ESPN Cricinfo.com

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