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Australia vs England: World champions bid to avoid series whitewash at the Melbourne Cricket Ground
Jos Buttler’s men go into the 3rd and final ODI looking to avoid a humiliating series whitewash at the hands of hosts Australia
England's nemisis Steve Smith fell six runs short of his cenutry as the hosts beat the tourists by 72 runs in the second one-day international to secure a 2-1 series win with a game to spare.
Australia cantered to a six-wicket victory over England in the opening one-day international in Adelaide.
Chasing 288 to win, half-centuries from David Warner, Travis Head and Steve Smith saw the hosts home with 19 balls left.
Now Jos Buttler's side head to Melbourne with nothing to play for but pride as their T20 World Cup hangover continues.
They say a week is a long time in politics, and the same goes for international white-ball cricket.
England beat Pakistan in a pulsating T20 final to become double world champions just seven days ago in Melbourne, now the tourists return to the MCG hoping to avoid a 3-0 series whitewash.
Captain Buttler knows there's plenty of work to be done before England are in a position to defend the 50-over World Cup trophy they won in 2019.
With the 2023 competition in India just under 12 months away, England could do with ending the tour on a high.
Australia are likely to be one of the main challengers to England's crown and, with the small matter of a home Ashes series in between, both sides will be desperate to land an early psychological blow as the countdown to India begins.
Having made eight changes to the side that won the T20 World Cup in the series opener, England head coach Matthew Mott opted to rest Buttler for the second ODI.
With Buttler missing, former Australia captain Smith took centre stage to continue his ominous form with the Ashes on the horizon.
Smith shared stands of 101 and 90 with Marnus Labuschagne and Mitchell Marsh, who each made half-centuries, as the hosts posted 280-8 in Sydney.
"That was probably the best I've felt in about six years," Smith told the media after making 80 not out in the first ODI.
"I was just in really nice positions and I felt really good, I honestly haven't felt that way in six years or so."
With the Ashes now just a little over six months away, it feels somewhat inevitable that the former Australia skipper has found form again after a quiet couple of years.
The slump led to Smith making significant changes to his technique that mean he is more side-on at the crease and the results are there for all to see.
Smith will once again be the key wicket when England take to the field in the early hours of Tuesday morning, UK time.
While it has not been a series to remember for England, two men have done their chances of World Cup selection no harm.
With the likes of Buttler, Joe Root, Liam Livingstone missing, James Vince and Sam Billings both impressed with the bat as they looked to stake a claim for a place on the plane to India.
Coming to the crease with England 0-2, Vince hit 60 off 72 balls in an innings of grit and resilience.
Having had his temperement called into question in the past, Vince showed admirable maturity and restraint, guiding England to 208 all out, aided in no small part by Billings' knock of 71.
"At the halfway stage it didn't look the easiest of wickets but we felt in the game with 280," Vince told BBC Radio after the game.
"But conditions didn't quite suit attacking in the way we normally would so it was probably par, just over. We lost early wickets and the flurry of wickets after me and Sam got out really hurt us."
Vince, who has registered fifty-plus scores in three of his last four ODIs, admitted England were lacking sufficient warm-up for the fifty-over format.
He said: "We've not had a huge amount of preparation.
"Somewhere in the middle of where the guys have been here for a while and where we are would be ideal. But there's been a lot of effort to try and do well in this series.
"Unfortunately we go to Melbourne having lost it. Fair play to the guys that have been here from the World Cup, they've focused on the game when it's come round to it as well as they can."