LONDON: Australia captain Aaron Finch hit a hundred before England fought back with the ball in their World Cup clash at Lord’s on Tuesday.
Reigning champions Australia looked set for a huge total at 185-2 but, one ball after completing his century, Finch holed out.
Australia continued to lose wickets but, with Alex Carey 38 not out, they finished on 285-7 off their 50 overs to leave England with a stiff but not impossible chase against their arch-rivals.
However, an Australia attack led by left-arm quick Mitchell Starc defended a total of 288 to beat the West Indies by 15 runs earlier in the tournament, with Finch side’s having won all four games in which they have bowled second at this World Cup.
“To get out straight after a hundred is never ideal,” said Finch. “I think there is enough in the wicket. It is still a pretty good score.
“It wasn’t the easiest wicket to start on. The ball was moving for the seamer. We were conscious to get through that and were able to. We could have got a few more runs but we have got to defend it regardless.”
Both Warner, the World Cup’s leading run-scorer, and Steve Smith were booed as they entered and exited the field following their recent return from year-long bans for ball-tampering.
England captain Eoin Morgan, who has said it is not his job to tell the crowd how to behave, won the toss in overcast conditions and on a green pitch that promised to help his attack.
Finch and David Warner (53) shared a fine first-wicket stand of 123, with Finch earning a reprieve on 15 when James Vince could not hold a tough chance at backward point.
The Australia skipper then looked to up the tempo with a legside six off Moeen Ali but the stand was broken in the 23rd over when off-spinner Moeen induced Warner to lob a gentle catch to Joe Root, running round from backward point.
Finch went to his century thanks to a misfield by Chris Woakes but next ball he miscued a hook off Archer and Woakes made no mistake with the catch at fine leg.
He was out for exactly 100, having faced 116 balls, with 11 fours and two sixes and his exit saw Archer become the tournament’s outright leading wicket-taker with 16 scalps.
New batsman Glenn Maxwell hit a six and four off successive Archer deliveries only to fall for 12 when caught behind trying to ‘ramp’ Mark Wood.
Smith and Marcus Stoinis were then involved in a mix-up that saw Stoinis run out before Smith was caught in the deep off Woakes for 38.
England, bidding to win the World Cup for the first time, were unchanged from the side that suffered a surprise 20-run loss to Sri Lanka.
Australia made two changes from the team that Bangladesh by 48 runs in Nottingham, with off-spinner Nathan Lyon replacing leg-spinner Adam Zampa and Jason Behrendorff coming in for fellow paceman Nathan Coulter-Nile.
Only the top four at the end of the 10-team round-robin stage will qualify for the semi-finals.
Australia are currently second in the table.
England are fourth but any more slip-ups for Morgan’s men in their three remaining pool games against Australia, India and New Zealand could imperil their chances of reaching the knockout stages.
Top-ranked England, however, have won 10 of their past 11 one-day internationals against Australia.