Captain Alastair Cook admitted the England dressing room was “a tough place to be” after their winless run against Australia was extended by the most dramatic of one-wicket defeats in the second one-day international in Brisbane.
England were on the brink of finally beating Michael Clarke’s side for the first time in 84 days since arriving Down Under, only to be denied by James Faulkner’s unbeaten 69 from 47 balls.
When last man Clint McKay joined the all-rounder, Australia required 57 runs in six overs.
Faulkner responded to the danger with aggression, typical of Australia’s cricket this summer, as he blasted away England’s death bowling.
With 25 needed from 10 balls, Faulkner hit Ben Stokes for back-to-back sixes, before smacking the 12 needed from Tim Bresnan’s final over from the first three balls.
It meant Australia went 2-0 up in the five-game series, and also that Eoin Morgan’s brilliant 106 was in vain after England posted 300-8 batting first.
“It’s an emotional dressing room right now and a pretty tough place to be, but when we look at it tomorrow morning in the cold light of day, it was an astonishing innings (from Faulkner) that beat us,” Cook told the post-match presentation.
“So we did a lot of good things here. Obviously I’ll have to look at our last few overs but I’m proud of the way we got stuck in.
“But little things needed to go our way and they didn’t.”
Cook did not attend the post-match press conference, with Morgan instead put forward to explain away this latest defeat.
The left-hander attempted to relay the positives of a performance that England did control for long periods – thanks largely to his 94-ball century – but admitted his team-mates could not help but feel they had let themselves down.
“Guys probably shouldn’t be as harsh as they will be on themselves,” said Morgan.
“Naturally they will be, but if you look through today’s game we’ve done a lot of things right.
“It is quite tough. We let a good side come in at the end and we allowed them to play.
“We didn’t finish as well as we would have liked. We’re as surprised as anybody at the result.
“We let ourselves down a small bit. I think that can be said.”
England’s death bowling will come under closest scrutiny and Morgan admitted allowing Faulkner to retain the strike at the end proved fatal.
“We allowed James Faulkner to play like he does, which obviously isn’t part of our plans,” he said.
“With a No 11 batting at the other end you’d expect him to face the majority of the balls.”
Morgan also defended Stokes, whose 10 overs cost 74, after he came in for punishment at the end, adding: “Stokesy is a good yorker bowler and backs himself at the death.
“We’ve seen his skill throughout the whole of this summer and what he can do. He’s got endless capabilities, but today he just didn’t finish as well as he would have liked.”
A team unchanged from the six-wicket defeat in Melbourne appeared consigned to a below-par total, after Cook won the toss, as they idled to 178-5 in the 38th over.
Regular wickets meant Morgan was initially forced to play within himself, reaching his half-century from 70 balls, with only Ian Bell’s 68 at the top of the order providing a foundation.
But from there the left-hander took charge, with able assistance from Buttler (49), as his second 50 came from 24 balls.
Morgan reached three figures with a ramp over wicketkeeper Brad Haddin.
Morgan’s hitting was only ended in the final over, when he mistimed another swat at Faulkner, who he had launched for back-to-back sixes at the height of his 99-ball innings.
England then claimed early wickets thanks to Chris Jordan.
The right-armer removed openers Aaron Finch and David Warner inside the first six overs.
It was just the start England desired and it got better when Joe Root’s occasional spin secured the prized scalp of Australia captain Clarke, slicing to Ballance at point.
Australia were still able to score freely, Shaun Marsh reached his half-century from 60 balls, and there was a sense England still needed to take wickets.
Root obliged when he skidded one past a Marsh late cut before Boyd Rankin trapped George Bailey plumb in front.
But still Australia attacked with Glenn Maxwell reverse-sweeping Root for a hat-trick of fours to kick-start an 80-run stand with Brad Haddin that started to shift the momentum away from England.
Tim Bresnan wrenched it back by removing both men in the 35th over.
Haddin skied high for Cook to hold on at mid-off and then Maxwell, who had reached a half-century from 37 balls, pulled straight to Ravi Bopara inside the ring.
Nathan Coulter-Nile and Mitchell Johnson’s feared big hitting did not materialise, but Faulkner’s did as he made one last defiant stand with McKay.
He was athletically caught by Root, but with his momentum taking him over the rope the fielder was forced to let go.
Faulkner continued to go at England, smashing Ben Stokes for consecutive sixes, and with 12 needed from the final over the all-rounder completed the job in three balls.