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Essex had the returning Cook and Bopara to strengthen their brittle batting; Australia had a good mixture of experience and youth in both batting and bowling. Watson and Warner headed up Australia's batting. Given Watson's propensity to run out his partners in recent times, it seems Australia have decided to counter this by having Warner shriek "NO" at every opportunity. The two steamrollered ahead, adding 50 in just under 5 overs. The highlight was undoubtedly Warner's huge pull at one of Napier's medium pacers, sending the ball scuttling into the car park and narrowly avoiding the touring bus.
Warner went after going for one big hit too many, and Watson, as is often the case, soon followed. Watson was the first of four wickets for Topley, Essex's eighteen year old left armer. Topley was hugely impressive. Similar in stature to Steven Finn, Topley achieved pace and bounce, which seemed to particularly trouble Warner, who struggled to pick him up. Topley's success was forcing the batsman to play. He constantly brought Watson onto the front foot, an area where has struggled in the past. Napier's medium deliveries allowed the two openers to rock onto the bat foot and pull viciously; Topley didn't. The highlight was his delivery to dismiss Lee, who had rocketed into IPL mode. Topley pitched the ball up, sent it down with more pace than Lee expected, and removed his off stump.
The only Australian batsman who failed to impress was Bailey. Whilst Clarke and David Hussey, who did an excellent job of ignoring the 'where's your brother?' jibes from an increasingly rowdy crowd, accumulated in traditional middle over fashion, Wade, Smith and Lee hit out. Bailey? He looked uncomfortable at the crease, often unable to hit it off the square. Wade, meanwhile, took his time to settle in, before taking particular offence at Greg Smith's bowling. After swatting him for three boundaries and a six, in relatively quick succession, his stay was ended by Napier.
Australia set Essex 313 to win, a target which depended on a stable start. With Pettini, Cook and Bopara, this seemed a plausible task. Yet Lee and Cummins were too quick for the batsmen. Lee is fast - that's a fact. But more often than not he is wayward, leaking no balls and wides. His front foot was still pushing the line, but more often than not, he was on target. His pace did for Pettini, who slapped straight to midwicket after six successive dot balls, and it also placed pressure on Cook. Cook is always vulnerable at the start of an innings. The patience that works in test matches has to be readjusted for the one day games, and after slapping McKay to the boundary, he fell next ball trying his favourite cut shot to a short, wide delivery.
Cummins, however, is the real find for Australia on this tour. For nineteen years old, his line is near perfect. He is quick, too; tall, broad shouldered and clearly in better shape than Mitchell Johnson, whose innings break net was painful to watch. His pace did for Westley, who lasted two deliveries before one snuck through his defence and sent his off stump spiralling down the ground. Smith departed in almost exact fashion, before Foster's impressive resistance was ended by Cummins' first delivery to him.
Bopara was the highlight of the Essex batsman, not letting Cummins or Watson settle. Yet his run-out curse returned to haunt him, involved in an incident that was both horrifying and hilarious. Foster provided some resistance, but Essex's batting was ultimately below par. It couldn't cope with the pace of the Australian attack. On the plus side for England, they will hopefully have seen Warner and Watson's struggles against Topley and will consider the effect Broad and Finn will have in the ODI next Friday. As for Cummins... he will only get better. A sobering thought.