RELIEVED Andrew Strauss admitted it was “horrendous” watching England limp to a victory at Old Trafford yesterday, but then lauded the efforts of his bowlers in helping his side open up an unassailable 3-0 series lead.
Spinner Graeme Swann took 4-37 and James Anderson 3-22 as Australia slumped from 130-2 to 212 all out.
Strauss, himself, led the reply with a fine 87, but England suffered a similar collapse to the tourists and eventually crawled over the line with one wicket and five balls to spare.
“It was pretty horrendous,” Strauss admitted. “We looked like we were cruising when Morgs [Eoin Morgan] and I were going well, but we have a couple of speed bumps in the first two one-dayers and today was a major one.
But the captain added: “We dragged it back well. The spinners were outstanding, the guys reacted well to the conditions we were encountering, we put the batsmen under pressure and that is leading to wickets.
“Any series win against Australia is a big achievement and you have to dig pretty deep. Personally it’s a great feeling to beat them but we are conscious there are areas we can improve in.”
For England, this was an eighth straight limited-overs victory and acts as sweet revenge for their 6-1 one-day defeat to the Australians last summer.
Shane Watson top-scored for the tourists with 61, but once he and fellow opener Tim Paine (44) were dismissed, the bowlers took charge with Swann accounting for the top order and Anderson the tail.
Strauss was in imperious form, leading the charge after losing fellow opener Craig Kieswetter first ball to the returning Shaun Tait.
Kevin Pietersen (25), Paul Collingwood (40) and Eoin Morgan (27) all made contributions, but Tait (3-28) and Doug Bollinger (3-20) got the better of the middle-to-lower order to set up a thrilling finish.
But with others falling around him, Tim Bresnan (14no) held his nerve in the final pairing with Anderson to see England home.
The penultimate match of the five-game series takes place at The Oval on Wednesday.