Australia's stand-in skipper George Bailey playing a shot during the match against England on Saturday. (Getty Images)
Birmingham: Stand-in captain George Bailey urged Australia to remain true to themselves despite a defeat by England that dented their hopes of retaining the Champions Trophy. In what was the first of 26 Anglo-Australian clashes across all formats between now and February 2, England beat their arch-rivals by 48 runs to win Saturday's Group A opener at Edgbaston.
Australia, still without injured captain Michael Clarke due to a recurrence of the star batsman's longstanding back problem, were set 270 to win after England's Ian Bell made 91 on his Warwickshire home ground. But their batsmen struggled against disciplined bowling led by James Anderson (3 for 30), who in the course of the innings became England's outright most successful one-day international bowler, surpassing the record of 234 wickets he had shared with Darren Gough.
Openers David Warner (nine) and Shane Watson (24) both fell cheaply, to seamers Stuart Broad and Tim Bresnan respectively. And for all that Bailey and James Faulkner made fifties, Australia were rarely in the hunt before finishing on 221 for 9.
Bailey though urged his openers not to curb their attacking instincts. "The one thing I don't want to see and the one thing we're certainly pushing for is for guys not to change the way they play," Bailey said."I want to see David Warner going after balls. I want to see him crashing the ball everywhere. I want to see Watto [Shane Watson] doing the same thing. And that is the way we've got to keep playing.
"That's why we've picked guys, and that is the challenge, while all that other stuff is going on around you, to make sure that you stick to your own game plan and to find a way to make it work," Bailey added.
Bailey, Australia's Twenty20 captain, said they knew what was coming from England's seam attack - they just weren't able to do much about it on Saturday. "There was nothing that they bowled today that we weren't expecting. They just executed very, very well."
While Australia's seamers rarely got the ball off straight, it didn't take long for England's pacemen to utilise reverse-swing. "It was good skill that," admitted Bailey. "Once they started reversing, they could hit a good length throughout the entire innings."
Meanwhile there were few crumbs of comfort for Australia fans hoping for Clarke's return in time for Australia's next match against New Zealand, who first play Sri Lanka in Cardiff on Sunday. "I know he's desperate to get back," said Bailey. "But chatting to him yesterday he felt like progress has been pretty slow. I know all the talk is 'save yourself for the Ashes', but every time I talk to him, he's desperate to get out here, get some training under his belt and then play."
As to whether Ashes-holders England had laid down a 'marker' ahead of next month's first Test in Nottingham, Bailey said it was too soon to tell. "It's England versus Australia. It's a huge rivalry. Every game means something. But it's not a marker, or it might be, but we can only say that in hindsight, I reckon."
Bell, whose innings was the cornerstone of England's 269 for 6, was also keen to limit the context of the result, saying: "The important thing was to win; it doesn't matter who we were playing."