LONDON, September 5 – Australia captain Michael Clarke praised two of the newcomers to the tour of England as his side put their Ashes defeat behind them with a tense four-run win in the first one-day international.Callum Ferguson won the man-of-the-match award for an unbeaten 71 here at the Oval on Friday and Cameron White weighed in with 53 as Australia, returning to the scene of their 197-run fifth-Test Ashes losing defeat, went 1-0 up in this seven-match series.
Ferguson’s innings was the centrepiece of Australia’s 260 for five, a total that just proved too much for England to overhaul as they finished on 256 for eight.
The 24-year-old South Australian’s score was his best in 15 matches at this level and took just 75 balls.
"We’ve got a lot of new players in our squad that didn’t take part in the Ashes," Clarke, deputising for the resting Ricky Ponting, told reporters.
"One-day cricket is a lot different to Test cricket, I’m taking a lot of positives out of tonight.
"Callum Ferguson played beautifully," Clarke added ahead of Sunday’s second match at Lord’s.
"But for Cameron Wright get an opportunity at No 3 and play the way he did was fantastic. It shows he’s a good all-round player and can bat in any position."
Clarke, whose 45 was subdued by his normally fluent standards, admitted: "I thought we were maybe 15, 20 runs short but that was mainly down to my batting. I took too many balls to score the runs I did.
"But the way we bowled and fielded was very good. We were very disciplined," he said after seeing left-arm fast bowler Mitchell Johnson take three wickets for 24 runs.
England fell just short with Ryan Sidebottom unable to score the six required off the last ball from fellow left-arm quick Nathan Bracken.
However, things ought not to have been so tight.
Ravi Bopara, who was dropped for the Ashes finale after averaging just 15 in the first four Tests, made 49 but took 88 balls and hit only three fours before he was stumped after off-spinner Nathan Hauritz beat his forward defensive stroke.
The experienced Paul Collingwood also couldn’t seize the initiative, his 23 taking 39 balls and featuring a solitary boundary.
Owais Shah (40 off 48 balls) and Luke Wright (38 off 27) upped the tempo but by then England were behind the required run-rate.
"When you’re chasing 260-odd you need one of your batters to get a big score," said England captain Andrew Strauss, himself out for 12.
"There were plenty of contributions but no one made a sizeable enough one to turn the game in our favour."
One consolation for England was the form of 21-year-old Adil Rashid.
In only his second match at this level, and first against Test opposition, the leg-spinner bowled 10 economical overs for 37 runs – and on another day might have had Ferguson lbw for nought – and then made a brisk 31 not out off 23 balls with four fours.
"We’ve always known Adil was a very talented individual with ball and bat," said Strauss. "Today, in a big game for him, I thought he was exceptional with the way he bowled.
"That’s encouraging. He’s got the capability to be a genuine all-rounder."