England target first Australia whitewash after records tumble in 242-run win

Will Macpherson
Hearty Hales: England's Alex Hales scored 147: AFP/Getty Images

Tuesday's stonking 242-run victory over Australia confirmed a suspicion: sooner or later, England will score 500 in 50 overs. That can wait, though, for their is another job at hand in Durham on Thursday and Old Trafford on Sunday — whitewashing Australia.

Whitewash. It is an evocative cricketing word, isn’t it? It is what Glenn McGrath predicts — often correctly — before England head Down Under for the Ashes. England have never done it to Australia in a five-match series in any format, and opportunities like this one do not arise often.

That said, this is not even the first time England have been 3-0 up against the Aussies this year. Upon getting themselves into that position in January, they fell to eight for five in Adelaide and lost, thus only winning the series 4-1. This is the first time in 41 years that they have won back-to-back bilateral ODI series against Australia and now it is time to become much more ruthless.

This Australia team is even less formidable than the one England faced five months ago. It is shorn of six first-choice players, all of them exceptional. It has a captain who is brave, but probably not worth his spot in the side. The batting order is muddled and the bowling callow. But any chance to beat the Australians, especially 5-0, should not be sniffed at.

Eoin Morgan thought Tuesday was England’s “best by a stretch” under his captaincy. The numbers back him up and it slipped under the radar that the skipper himself had a special day personally. He made England’s fastest ever ODI half-century (21 balls) and became their highest ever runscorer, too, overtaking Ian Bell’s 5,416.

On a broader level, it was England’s record runs win, Australia’s record runs loss, the highest score ever (achieved with 27 balls to spare and beaten by 37 runs), the first time England have had two partnerships of more than 150 and the first time two Englishmen have scored more than 130. They hit 21 sixes, three more than they managed in six games at the 2015 World Cup.

The hitting from the top three of Jason Roy and the centurions Jonny Bairstow and Alex Hales was breathtaking. One of them will make England’s first ODI double-century at some stage, and Morgan believes it will come from under 140 balls. It may well happen at Trent Bridge, which has become synonymous with England’s ceiling smashing.

They are back in three weeks to face India but sadly have just one game at the World Cup here, against poor Pakistan, who come with memories of conceding 444 in 2016. Hales, who exploits his home ground so expertly, should definitely play in that game, even if he is still not in the first-choice XI.

Morgan believes the three of them — and the batting group more widely — require little motivation because competition for places keeps them on their toes. It is hard to argue: Roy and Hales have hundreds in the last two wins; Bairstow has four in six innings.

Sam Curran has been called up as cover (REUTERS)

Morgan acknowledged the need to keep an English boot on Australian throats, but also warned of the need to protect his fast bowlers due to the tightness of the turnaround. Mark Wood could be replaced on his home ground by Jake Ball and Liam Plunkett by Tom Curran. Curran’s brother, Sam, and Craig Overton have been called up as cover.

Morgan believed it was “an opportunity missed” to reach 500, but it was not a day for regrets — he was amazed at how easily they coasted past 444. But they did not score a boundary off the bat in the 27 balls after and it says everything about this line-up’s ability that not scoring 500 did feel like a mild disappointment.

Still, they got to 481, despite Jos Buttler, their biggest hitter, making just 11 from 12 balls.

Morgan refused to believe 500 is a formality because “we don’t know where the game will be this time next year”. One thing is for certain, though: wherever the game is headed, it is England leading the charge there.