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.
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.
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. If the Aussies can do it...,” he tweeted again.
The Australian media had also been in typically combative mood.
“Pace attack plans to decimate Poms,” roared the headline in the Sydney Daily Telegraph.
“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 also 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 Eoin Morgan’s pace attack.
“You are allowed to bowl a yorker, it’s not illegal in the game of cricket,” said Botham. 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 likely that would soon become 14.