Senior Sports Reporter
IN the end, there wasn’t a perfect summer for Chris Silverwood, and his English cricketers, with their proud five-year unbeaten record ending in the fireworks an Australia batting blitzkrieg on Wednesday.
But, the 45-year-old England coach, whose coaching career started in Harare at Mashonaland Eagles 10 years ago, preferred to look at the bright side, despite his team’s series defeat.
Defending 302/7, in the final ODI where a victory would help them clinch the series at Old Trafford, England appeared to be powering to a comprehensive win when they reduced the Aussies to 73-5.
But, on a day when a number of records fell by the wayside, the men from Down Under refused to throw in the towel, in a remarkable display of defiance.
And, powered by majestic centuries from Glenn Maxwell (108) and Alex Carey (106), they squeezed their way to a three-wicket win with just two balls to spare.
A number of records also fell that day:
Australia’s total of 305/7, in reply, was the highest successful run chase, in an ODI at Old Trafford, and beat the previous record when the hosts chased down 285 against New Zealand 34 years ago with Bill Athey scoring 142 on that day.
The 303-run chase by the Aussies was also the first successful run chase of a target of 300 plus at Old Trafford in 55 ODI cricket matches.
It was also the third highest successful chase, in a bilateral ODI series-deciding match, after South Africa chased down 435, in Johannesburg in 2006 to beat Australia in an ODI and India chased down 316 in Cuttack, last year, to beat the West Indies.
England became the first team, in ODI history, to end with more than 300 runs despite losing two wickets, with no run on the board, beating the previous highest total of 287/9, by Pakistan, when they recovered from a similar scenario in their match against New Zealand in the 2009 in Abu Dhabi.
The 212-run partnership between Carey and Maxwell, which ultimately made the difference on Wednesday, was the first double century stand, in ODI cricket, for the Aussies for a sixth, or lower wicket, stand and beat the 165 partnership of Brad Haddin and Mike Hussey, for the sixth wicker, against West Indies in the 2006 Tri-series in Malaysia.
The Maxwell/Carey masterclass provided ODI cricket with only its second pair, of a number six and number seven batsman, who both scored centuries, in the same innings, since Mahela Jayawardene and MS Dhoni powered to similar centuries, during the 2007 Afro-Asia Cup ODI in Chennai.
Until the defeat on Wednesday, England had marched to nine straight ODI series victories at home, since 2016, and their last home ODI series loss had, just like this one, came at the hands of the Aussies five years ago.
In powering his century, Maxwell became the fastest cricketer, to score 3000 ODI runs, and just the sixth man to reach that mark at a strike-rate, exceeding 100, needing the 2,440th ball of his career — at a remarkable strike-rate of 122.95 — to get there.
Maxwell also needed 113 matches to complete the double of 3000 runs and 50 wickets in the ODI format and the second quickest to the milestone, for the men from Down Under, behind Mark Waugh, who got there in only 99 matches.
But, despite ending on the losing end of this thriller, and all the records that fell, Silverwood chose to look at the brighter side of a day when, once again, cricket showed its box-office attraction.
“I think cricket, as a whole, has won,’’ the coach told The Guardian. “We won’t be getting too down about it. There are things we can work on — fielding is one thing we’ve started pushing, coming into this series.
“And, we need to continue to work on that because we can always improve.
“It certainly wasn’t through any lack of effort or passion but I don’t think we have performed at our best. I think there’s a few more gears in there and we’ve got to continually strive to improve.
“I think a lot of credit needs to go to all the people involved, whether that be players, staff, the ECB (England and Wales Cricket Board), the hotels, the grounds — everybody involved to make this happen because it’s been absolutely fantastic.”
Ten years ago, Silverwood was in Harare, starting his adventure into coaching, with a stint at Mashonaland Eagles.
He arrived here as a fast bowler for the team, in the hey days of the romance which saw the domestic game get a facelift, and attract such talents like Windies great, Brian Lara.
Silverwood had been approached by former Zimbabwean international cricketer, Anthony Ireland, to consider coming here to play in the domestic competition as either a player or a coach.
He played two matches for the Eagles, and eased into their role as their coach, as they won the Logan Cup.