SYDNEY: Newly appointed England captain Eoin Morgan scored a century but those around him faltered as the visitors were bowled out for 234 by Australia in Friday's opening match of the one-day tri-series.
Morgan's seventh ODI century partially relieved a dire situation after England lost two wickets in the opening over, but the tourists still posted a disappointing total in ideal batting conditions at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Left-arm speedster Mitchell Starc produced two superb in-swingers to trap Ian Bell lbw with the first ball of the match and James Taylor, identically, two balls later.
England was 12-3 when Joe Root (5) departed soon after, and Morgan — who has replaced Alastair Cook as one-day skipper — was at the crease in the fourth over.
Morgan was justifiably watchful in the early part of his innings, using 88 balls to reach his fifty but was more aggressive later, needing only 39 more deliveries to reach a century; his sixth for England after one for Ireland.
Few England batsmen displayed Morgan's determination until wicketkeeper Jos Buttler, with 28 from 60 balls, shared a partnership of 67 for the sixth wicket after the visitors had slumped to 69-5.
Opener Moeen Ali watched from the non-striker's end as his first two partners vanished within the first three balls of the innings. His response was to try to hit England out of its early crisis and he hit two fours and a six before he was out for 22 from 21 balls.
Australia captain George Bailey set a brilliant trap for Ali: putting Glenn Maxwell at deep mid-off, and Ali hit a mistimed shot straight to him off a James Faulkner short ball.
Ravi Bopara made 13, then hit the third ball of spinner Xavier Doherty's first over to Maxwell at backward point. Maxwell finished with four catches, also contributing to the dismissals of Chris Jordan for 17 and, finally, Morgan for 121 when England was nine down.
Australia's bowlers, especially Doherty and Faulkner, kept tight lines and prevented Morgan and his partners hitting out or even accumulating steadily through the middle overs of the innings.
The lack of a late-order player capable of playing a forceful innings to change the course of the innings is a concern for England heading toward next month's World Cup.
Faulkner bowled superbly, claiming the wickets of Ali and Buttler and containing England when it needed to acclerate its scoring. His use of a slower ball which arced and turned was impressive.
He finished with 3-47 while Starc returned to take two wickets in the last over of the innings and finish with 4-42.