Despite Billings and Bairstow's batting brilliance, Australia went away with the honours in the ODI series opener by 19 runs on back of remarkable bowling by Hazlewood and Zampa. It was Maxwell-Marsh partnership that propelled Australia to 294 after they had their back against the wall at 123 for 5.
Maxwell, Marsh bask in glory
Touted as a team sans middle-order, Australia's Glenn Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh, blue-eyed boys of cricket trolls, having perennially failed to justify their extravagant abilities, looked determined to change perceptions as they added the highest sixth-wicket partnership for Australia against England in ODIs. Glenn Maxwell, who had apparently arrived on the international stage as a consistent performer in 2015 when he averaged 46 with a strike-rate of 135.86 in ODIs, was integral part of the World Cup-winning side, only flattered to deceive, averaging 25.33, 27.20, 29.57, 33.42 in the following calendar years.
Coming into the game without a fifty in last 10 ODIs, having failed terribly in the preceding T20I series, Maxwell looked like a man on a mission and helped Australia with a smashing half-century. By the time the 31-year-old was done, the Men in Yellow had already closed in on the 250-run-mark after half of the side was back in the hut at just 123 when he had arrived in the middle. Maxwell added 126 runs with Mitchell Marsh, scoring 77 off just 59 with four fours and as many sixes. Not only did he bat like a genius that he is, but also took off all the pressure from Marsh's shoulders.
Known for his powerful batting, Mitchell Marsh didn't bat at his fluent best but after helping Australia cross the line in the third T20I with an unbeaten 39*, did no harm to his chances with a 100-ball-73. The Perth batsman, who has grown up on fast and bouncy pitches, found it hard to bat at his usual rapid pace on a pitch that had something for the spinners. But the right-hander will be mighty pleased to have helped Australia reach 294 runs and most importantly, make his first ODI fifty since January 2018. In the end, Australia would be happy that Maxwell express train combined well with Marsh passenger to give Aussie bowlers a respective to defend after they were reeling at 123/5.
The Josh Hazlewood white-ball resurgence
Touted as the apparent heir to Glenn McGrath, Josh Hazlewood is renowned for invariable consistency with his line and length and a steady head on his shoulders. Well, it has served him well in Test cricket, where he is a regular for Australia but there are times, when you look at him in white-ball cricket and wonder what has he done not to be a regular? Is he unlucky? Is he underrated? I mean he has played more Tests (51) than ODIs (49), which is perplexing given he has 80 wickets and an economy of 4.72, which is excellent.
England could merely score at run-rate of 2.2 in first power play, on a pitch which was nowhere as bad but England were restricted thanks to the prowess of Josh Hazlewood. When the hosts started off, the required run-rate was just under 6 but by the time the swing bowler was taken off after bowling eight straight overs, he had given merely 21 runs and accounted for wickets of Jason Roy and Joe Root to leave required run-rate mounting up to 7 per over by the end of 16 overs. He bowled 38 dots off 48 deliveries and created a lot of pressure and after his spell, England lost two quick wickets with Buttler, specifically, getting out trying to break the shackles with a big shot. Even in his last spell, the disciplined pacer sent back Moeen Ali to kill the English hopes, if there were any after Bairstow's fighting knock.
Hazlewood had also impressed in the last T20I with 1/23, featuring in the shortest format after a gap of more than four years. The Tamworth-born pacer has done a wonderful job right since the start of the year in ODIs and was one of the best bowlers for his side in three of the four games in lead up to this game, with figures of 1/55 against the Men in Blue and 2/37 versus South Africa and New Zealand respectively. And after his top-show (26/3 in 10 overs) in Manchester, he is surely going to remain in Australia's ODI scheme of things for sometime now.
Sam Billings throws his hat into the ring
Often accused of not living up to the billing, Sam Billings was out there in the first ODI with a point to prove after failing in the T20Is this summer. In a game where experienced batsmen like Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler got out to some really poor shots, the talented batsman kept England in the game by fighting till the end, even after the dismissal of Bairstow and smoked his maiden ODI century after a difficult start. The 29-year-old came to the middle when the Three Lions were struggling badly after being reduced to 57 for four after 16.1 overs chasing 295.
The right-hander first formed an exceptional partnership of 113 runs with Jonny Bairstow and even after his dismissal, Billings didn't give up and kept playing extraordinary strokes including some inventive reverse-sweeps off Adam Zampa, and also a scoop each off both Starc and Cummins with relative ease. This summer has been very potent for the Kent batsman with key English players missing the Ireland ODIs, where he made notable contributions with scores of 67* 46* and 19 after making his first appearance in the 50-overs format since June 2018. There was considerable pressure on him coming into this game despite his good run against Ireland as he could merely manage 3*, 10, 26 and 4 in T20Is versus Pakistan and Australia respectively.
There is no dearth of quality batsmen in England, with so many star-studded batsmen already in contention, it was paramount for him to come all guns blazing. And in the absence of superstar Ben Stokes, Sam Billings has certainly thrown his hat into the ring for a spot in England's middle-order. Given how well Billings plays spin, this knock would help him to press for more chances and remain in contention for the 2021 T20 World Cup in India.