| Ian Blackwell of England dives for a caught and bowled chance from Michael Bevan in Adelaide Sunday. (Reuters)
Adelaide: England qualified for the finals of the triangular one-day series, despite losing to Australia by four wickets at the Adelaide Oval on Sunday.
Australia made 153 for six in 47.3 overs in reply to England’s 152 all out in 48.3 overs.
The World Cup champions were unable to achieve their target within 40 overs and claim a bonus point, which meant England picked up one point to be on 20, six ahead of Sri Lanka. Tournament pacesetters Australia gained five to be on 32.
Left-arm paceman Nathan Bracken won the Man of the Match award after ripping through England’s top order, finishing with three for 21 from 7.3 overs. Paul Collingwood, who made an unbeaten 63, was one of only four England batsmen to reach double figures.
Australia’s batsmen also struggled on the slow wicket, apart from Damien Martyn, who hit 59, and Michael Bevan, who made 30. The pair put on 91 for the third wicket before both fell to spinner Ian Blackwell, who took a career-best three for 26 in 10 overs.
Debutant Michael Clarke, 21, guided Australia to victory with a cool 39 not out that included three boundaries.
Australia host Sri Lanka on Tuesday in Melbourne in the last game of the series before they meet England in the best-of-three finals starting on January 23.
If Sri Lanka beat Australia and gain a bonus point to draw level with England in the standings, they would still be eliminated on their head-to-head record of 1-3 against England. Australia’s stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist said the Adelaide Oval wicket had been two-paced on Sunday, making strokeplay difficult.
England had made 279 for seven at Adelaide Oval two days earlier in beating Sri Lanka by 19 runs.
“(On Friday) 260 was a good score and today 180 would have been a good score,” England captain Nasser Hussain said. “The wicket was a lot worse today but it looked pretty much the same. ”
Bracken, 25, playing his first one-day International in almost two years, removed openers Marcus Trescothick (6) and Nick Knight (11) caught behind and fooled Hussain (0) into offering a return catch off a slower ball. Brad Williams took the key wicket of Michael Vaughan, who made 21 off 22 balls but was out caught behind at 38 for two in the ninth over.
Shane Watson dismissed Alec Stewart (6) and Ian Blackwell (0) as England’s batsmen paid dearly for their poor footwork.
Collingwood and Ronnie Irani, who came together at 71 for six in the 25th over, put on 45 before left-arm spinner Clarke had Irani caught at long on for 20.
But Australia’s hopes of an easy victory were put on hold when they lost two early wickets for five runs.
Jimmy Maher was caught behind off James Anderson for a duck in the second over. Captain Gilchrist soon followed.