Australia took an unassailable 2-0 lead in their ODI series against England as a saving act from James Vince and Sam Billings proved insufficient in Sydney.
Chasing 281, England were stunned by Mitchell Starc who trapped Jason Roy and Dawid Malan in the opener as they stumbled to 34 for three before Vince and Billings put in 122 to steady the ship.
But Vince’s fall for 60 from 72 balls opened the floodgates, with Billings going for 71 from 80 deliveries soon after as England were out for 208 from 39.5 overs to lose by 72 runs.
A dead rubber awaits in Melbourne on Tuesday, an ill-suited conclusion to what has been memorable recent weeks Down Under for England, who celebrated winning the T20 World Cup last Sunday.
Steve Smith’s 94 from 114 backed Australia’s 280 in eight, with Marnus Labuschagne amassing 58 from 55 deliveries and Mitchell Marsh 50 from 59, which proved more than enough on a worn surface.
The timing and relevance of this series was questioned and both teams were without their captains as Moeen Ali replaced Jos Buttler and Josh Hazlewood led Australia in the absence of Pat Cummins.
Joining Moeen, leading England for the first time in an ODI after skippering the T20 team 11 times, were fellow World Cup winners Sam Curran, Chris Woakes and Adil Rashid.
Moeen’s first major decision was to take up bowling after Australia ran 33 for nothing in five overs. The switch worked when David Warner swept Liam Dawson inside the ring.
Woakes tightened his lines and varied his pace after starting loose, but it was a faster ball that hit Travis Head, whose draw caught the splice and buckled on a short midwicket.
Smith fitted in well, happy to take the singles on offer, while Labuschagne showed more intent as evidenced by his second ball for his first ODI six after advancing down the track to Moeen.
He used his feet well against the England spinners but a sweeping attempt caught the top edge and swelled midway, while Rashid had two in two when Alex Carey was puzzled as Australia slipped to 144 for four.
Smith upped the ante after hitting half a century of 70 balls – his fourth consecutive score of over fifty in this format – but slammed into Rashid, who finished with three for 57, while Woakes’ knuckle ball casted Marcus Stoinis on ground that was slowing and showing signs of turning.
Marsh beat Woakes and the different-colored Curran, but he and Starc were caught on the edge of back-to-back David Willey deliveries. But Australia finished well, with T20 World Cup Player of the Tournament Curran conceding 16 in their overhead final to finish 7-0-55-0.
England made a false start early in their response as Roy gloved the side of the leg for a two-ball duck, his fourth in his last eight innings for club and country, while worse was to follow when Malan, a centurion in Adelaide, got knocked out by a sensational hitter from Starc.
Phil Salt bristled on goal but exposed his stumps in Hazlewood and paid the price after missing a whiff to leave for 23, but Australia pulled Starc off after three overs, leaving Vince and Billings to settle.
The pair are on the fringes of this white ball setup, but both have extensive Big Bash League experience, with Vince particularly fluid in his preferred coverage region, an area he cleared with a fantastic left arm drive. slow Ashton Agar. , while Stoinis was also dropped off in the stands.
Billings set up spinning the strike for his first 25 runs, but the reverse swept Adam Zampa for his first four, then mixed the wicket with fellow spinner Agar and unleashed some power shots for a back six at back leg side.
The pair raised their half-centuries and took England past 150 before Hazlewood re-entered and grabbed Vince, kicked the back leg and got an lbw after missing a heave on line.
Moeen looked to have Zampa’s number with shots for four then six, but a regulation leg break thrashed through his defenses, sailing through the gate. In Zampa’s next match, Billings yorked and was knocked down, ending England’s hopes. Both Starc and Zampa finished with four wickets as Australia won comfortably.