ENGLAND have vowed to keep Australia in a spin following Moeen Ali’s match-winning turn at The Oval.
Moeen took two wickets for three runs in eight balls, securing England an early advantage that proved sufficient for their three-wicket win in London.
England made heavy weather of picking off their paltry 215 victory target, but crept over the line for an immediate advantage in the five-match series.
And now captain Eoin Morgan has admitted he will keep looking to Moeen and Yorkshire’s Adil Rashid to turn the screw on Australia’s spin struggles.
“We used a lot of spin in the winter against Australia in Australia,” said Morgan.
“Different scenarios might change things. But when the guys are bowling as well as they have today, I think more than likely we’ll probably go with that balance.
It’s always nice to perform for England and to win games. The most important thing was that we managed to win today.Moeen Ali
“Certainly with the left-handers that Australia have, Moeen is an option to go to early. He can be a real threat and doesn’t mind bowling in the power play. It created an opportunity for us today.
“With the bat we were below par but managed to get over the line. It’s a big positive to take because it’s a characteristic that we’re going to need.
“The most important thing is that we did get the win. Before the Scotland game I mentioned how going into the World Cup and trying to replicate tournament-based cricket is getting wins when you don’t have a great day. Finding ways to get over the line is important, and today we did a really good job of it.”
Morgan’s 69, Joe Root with 50 and Moeen with 17 will all feel they should have finished the game for England themselves.
Instead it was left to Yorkshire’s David Willey to hit his best England score of 35 not out, sealing the win with a big six.
Moeen admitted England must now target the series victory, with the second clash looming large in Cardiff on Saturday.
“I feel quite good with the ball, and I’m trying to adapt to the wicket, in terms of pace and things like that,” said Moeen. “We managed to get them three down and you can afford to bowl a bit slower and spin it more in situations like that.
“It’s always nice to perform for England and to win games. The most important thing was that we managed to win today. Hopefully we can take some confidence from here and go on to win the series as well.”
Australia’s first international action since March’s ball-tampering scandal that saw Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft suspended ended in a defeat that would have been more comprehensive, save for England’s errant batting.
Australia struggled for fluency throughout, feeling the injury absence of bowling trio Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood just as much as their three suspended batsmen.
Moeen put England in control.The Worcestershire off-spinner drew a false shot from Aaron Finch, clean bowled Shaun Marsh and then forced captain Tim Paine into a mistake to boot.
Glenn Maxwell hit 62 from 64 balls to dig Australia out of an even deeper hole, only to loft a facile catch to Jonny Bairstow off Plunkett.
England endured the worst possible start to their reply when Jason Roy fell to just the second delivery as he was late on his shot to a ball from Billy Stanlake that nipped back on him and was bowled without scoring.
Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow then scored a flurry of boundaries before Michael Neser claimed his maiden one-day wicket when he trapped Hales on the back pad to have him lbw for five and leave England on 23-2.
Bairstow continued to play freely as he went in search of a fourth consecutive one-day international century but he then pulled Kane Richardson straight to Travis Head at deep square leg and was caught for 28 to leave England 38-3.
But Morgan and Root rebuilt the innings before Morgan and Buttler (9) fell to Andrew Tye as England leaked wickets throughout their facile run chase.
Root then edged Stanlake behind to depart on 50 when he ought to have steered England home.
Ali could not finish the job either, holing out off Michael Neser’s bowling for 17, teeing up a tense finish with England seven down and still 18 short of victory.
But Willey sealed the win by thumping a huge straight six to end unbeaten on 35.
“We didn’t get enough runs out of our top five and you don’t win too many one day games when the highest score of your top five is 22 or 23 - it’s pretty simple,” said Paine. “We’ve got enough batting to score more than 214.”
Asked if Australia’s top concern remains their handling of spin, Paine continued: “Today it was, no doubt about that. “It’s something the whole group’s been working on, something we speak a lot about trying to improve.”