Cricket: Finch, Marsh star as co-hosts Australia hammer England

Australia's Mitchell Marsh (centre) celebrates the wicket of England's Joe Root during their 2015 Cricket World Cup match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Feb 14, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Australia's Mitchell Marsh (centre) celebrates the wicket of England's Joe Root during their 2015 Cricket World Cup match at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG) on Feb 14, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

MELBOURNE (AFP) - Mitchell Marsh proved the unlikely bowling star and Aaron Finch blasted the first ton of the World Cup, as Australia crushed England by 111 runs at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Saturday.

The tournament favourites ruthlessly swept to victory in their opening Pool A match by posting their highest-ever one-day international total against England of 342 for nine.

They then dismissed their hapless arch-rivals for 231 with more than eight overs to spare.

All-rounder Marsh, making his World Cup debut, claimed five for 33 as Australia latched on to their catches with Steve Smith's mid-air screamer to dismiss Jos Buttler the best of the highlight reel.

It was a comprehensive victory that signalled Australia as the team to beat, as they bid to win their fifth World Cup and their first at home since going out in the semi-finals to England when they last hosted the event in 1992.

It was a grim night for England, who only narrowly avoided their heaviest World Cup defeat - in terms of runs - following a 122 run-thrashing by South Africa at The Oval in 1999.

And apart from their bowlers getting flogged and dropped catches, England skipper Eoin Morgan was out for his fourth nought in his last seven innings.

James Taylor's face-saving unbeaten knock of 98 not out was the lone shining beacon, with England now having won just two of their last 16 ODI encounters Down Under.

Diminutive opener Finch punished England for Chris Woakes putting him down at mid-wicket on the fifth ball of the innings off James Anderson before the batsman had scored.

Finch thrilled his massive 84,336 home-town crowd with three sixes and 12 fours before he was finally run out by Morgan's brilliant direct hit in the 37th over.

Finch's knock was the second highest against England at the World Cup after West Indies great Vivian Richards' 138 not out in the 1979 final.

All-rounder Glenn Maxwell showed off his improvised shotmaking in his all-action knock of 66 off 40 balls and skipper George Bailey contributed 55.

England made early inroads before Finch and Bailey restored the home side's position from 70 for three to put on a stand of 146 runs off 156 balls after Stuart Broad took two wickets in two balls to remove the dangerous David Warner (22) and Shane Watson, caught behind for a first-ball duck.

Woakes followed up with the prized wicket of Smith for five to have the Aussies wobbling at 70 for three.

England's fielding became ragged and Maxwell smashed seamer Steven Finn for four consecutive fours to bring up his 50 off just 30 balls on his way to 66 while Brad Haddin slammed 31 off 14 balls.

Finn took the 2015 World Cup's first hat-trick with the last three balls of the innings but Australia had already compiled a huge total.

England, who had never before chased down more than 306 to win an ODI, soon crumbled under aggressive bowling and tight fielding with Marsh on a hat-trick after dismissing Ian Bell (36) and Joe Root (5) with successive balls.

Morgan's woes continued when he tried to pull Marsh but instead got an under-edge that was superbly held, one-handed, by diving wicketkeeper Haddin.

Buttler fell to a sensational airborne catch by Smith for 10 at short cover.

Woakes and Taylor held up Australia's victory charge with a 92-run stand for the seventh wicket. Mitchell Starc bowled Broad for a duck, Finn was caught and bowled by Johnson for one.

England did not even have the consolation of seeing the gutsy Taylor get to a maiden ODI hundred when the match ended in confusion fashion.

He was adjudged leg before wicket but overturned the decision on review. However, Anderson was given run out for eight as he went for a single with Taylor's protestations that the ball was dead when he was initially given out failing to impress the umpires.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.