Cricket: Aussies enjoy gloat as England wilt

Cricket: Aussies enjoy gloat as England wilt

MELBOURNE - A near-capacity Melbourne Cricket Ground and a fair proportion of Australia revelled in seeing England wilt in the World Cup heat Saturday as the hosts, pundits and media turned the screw on their oldest enemies.

Local hero Aaron Finch blasted a century, finishing on 135 off 128 balls, treating the home fans to three prodigious sixes and 12 boundaries - after he had been dropped on nought.

All-rounder Glenn Maxwell also took to the England bowling with some improvised shot-making for 66 as Australia piled up 342 for nine, their highest-ever total against their rivals at a World Cup.

The MCG had filled rapidly after morning rain cleared, raising the prospect of a ground record one-day crowd of around 90,000. The highest crowd for an ODI at the MCG was 87,789 for the 1992 World Cup final, when Pakistan beat England.

On Saturday, a recent tradition was given a fresh airing when Australia fans booed and jeered England paceman Stuart Broad every chance they got.

Broad became a 'pantomime villain' figure for many Australia supporters when he refused to 'walk' after edging the ball during England's 2013 Ashes series win.

But the son of former England opener Chris has relished his 'man we love to hate status' and took two wickets in two balls on his way to figures of two for 66.

As the game got underway, former England spinner Graeme Swann tweeted: "The sun is out in Melbourne now so it's steamy. Perfect swing weather still. #GodSaveTheQueen #swinglow etc etc." At the end of the innings, Swann was more worried.

"Granted it wasn't the greatest bowling display near the end but credit due to finch and maxwell in particular." However, Swann saluted England fast bowler Steven Finch's hat-trick in the final over of Australia's innings in his own style.

"I hope some of you heeded my words of advice with @unibet and had some dough on a World Cup hat trick? brilliant batting from Aussies today," he wrote.

Black humour in the face of poor England one-day performances has become a stock in trade for fans and reporters alike, with Britain's Cricketer magazine responding to Finn's late treble by tweeting: "ENG hit form at just the right time in Melbourne against AUS, leaving home side way-short of the 1000-5 they looked like making."

Meanwhile, the Australian media were in traditionally combative mood.

"Pace attack plans to decimate Poms," roared the headline in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on the morning of the game.

"If the deathly silence at England training on Friday was anything to go by, Eoin Morgan and his men know there's a storm coming in the World Cup opener at the MCG." Former Australian spin wizard Shane Warne questioned England's tactics.

"England once again showed no plan at the end of an innings with their bowling, surely try a yorker & didn't it cost them, Aust made 342 !!!," wrote Warne from up in the TV commentary box.

Fellow commentator Ian Botham, one of England's greatest all-rounders, was equally aghast at the short-ball approach employed by Morgan's pace attack.

"You are allowed to bowl a yorker, it's not illegal in the game of cricket," said Botham.

Axed England batsman Kevin Pietersen, who recently starred in Australia's Big Bash League, was especially scathing about the composition of the team.

"Selection???? Dropping (Ravi) Bopara & putting (James) Taylor at 6??? Are you joking???!!!! FFS!", Pietersen told his Twitter followers.

Australia, chasing a fifth World Cup title, went into the game having won 13 of their last 15 ODI encounters against England in Australia.

As night fell in Melbourne, it looked increasingly likely that would soon become 14.


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