|Third ODI, Sydney|
|England 302-6 (50.0 overs): Buttler 100*, Woakes 53*|
|Australia 286-6 (50.0 overs): Finch 62, Stoinis 56, M Marsh 55; Wood 2-46|
|England won by 16 runs|
England have won their one-day series against Australia with two games to spare after Jos Buttler’s century led the tourists to a 16-run win in Sydney.
Buttler played a majestic innings, reaching his ton from the final ball of the innings as England posted 302-6.
The tourists were 189-6 on a slow pitch but Buttler and Chris Woakes (53 not out) hit 102 off the last 10 overs.
Aaron Finch made 62 in reply, while Mitch Marsh hit 55, but Australia could never get ahead of the required rate.
Liam Plunkett departed with a hamstring injury after just eight deliveries, but England’s attack bowled accurately enough and took wickets at crucial times to ensure the hosts fell short, with Marcus Stoinis dismissed in the final over for a thrilling 56.
Eoin Morgan’s side have an unassailable 3-0 lead in the five-match series, with the fourth ODI at Adelaide on Friday.
With the top order all making errors to leave England 107-4 in the 23rd over, Morgan and Buttler were forced to steadily accumulate and try to stay together to the 40-over mark before going on the attack.
Morgan could not last, nicking a cross-batted shot behind to Tim Paine off Josh Hazlewood for 41, before the out-of-form Moeen Ali dragged a wild swipe onto his stumps to depart for six, having already been reprieved by Cameron White’s poor attempt at a catch.
But England still had Buttler. Steering the tourists to 200 off 40 overs, the keeper then reached his half century off a relatively tame 52 balls. The next 50 took him just 31, despite facing a talented attack on a sluggish pitch.
Hitting mighty sixes and carving boundaries around the ground, adding in an exquisite ramp shot for four off Pat Cummins, Buttler went ballistic in the closing stages.
He was dropped on 70 by Adam Zampa and successfully reviewed when given out lbw on 97, allowing him the chance to scamper the two he needed from the final ball of the innings to bring up his fifth ODI century – his slowest at 83 balls.
Buttler was only slightly the more active partner in his century stand with Woakes, who hit five fours and two sixes in a superb unbeaten 53 off 36 balls.
After a crucial 39 not out in the second ODI, Woakes again proved how vital he is at number eight, bringing up his fifty with a tremendous pull shot for six off Mitchell Starc as he and Buttler smashed 76 runs in the final six overs, 38 of which were plundered off the last two.
Controversial catch checks chase
While still behind the required run-rate, Australia were edging into contention at 181-3 in the 34th over until the controversial dismissal of captain Steve Smith, caught behind by Buttler off Mark Wood for 45.
The keeper dived low to his right and claimed he had scooped his glove under the ball to take a magnificent catch, with Smith initially walking only for the decision to be referred to the third umpire.
Buttler was confident it was a clean catch and after a lengthy review of inconclusive pictures, the decision had to stay with the soft signal of out made by the on-field umpire leaving Smith, who had been able to watch the numerous replays on a big screen, visibly irate as he departed.
Marsh looked to counter attack by targeting Adil Rashid, but holed out to long on off the leg-spinner – who earlier trapped the dangerous Finch lbw – leaving Australia having to rebuild when they should have been accelerating.
Stoinis and Paine (31 not out) tried to do so and put on a stand of 74 that set up a tense finale, before some adept bowling from Wood ensured the hosts needed an unlikely 22 off the final over.
And once substitute fielder Sam Billings took a superb low catch to dismiss Stoinis for 56 off 43 balls, England knew they had secured an 18th victory in their last 20 completed one-day matches.
Hosts finally field strongest side
Prior to the one-day series, Australia said they would rest Hazlewood, Cummins and Starc, the fast bowling trio who took 66 wickets between them during the Ashes, at different points.
At 2-0 down in the series it was perhaps already too late for Australia to be fielding their strongest attack but the hosts duly played all three strike bowlers and showed what they had been lacking.
Each offered a threat with their pace and accuracy, ensuring England’s batsmen were never able to settle, even after getting starts.
Jason Roy (19) miscued a lofted drive off Cummins to extra cover and Alex Hales made just one before he mistimed Stoinis to mid-on as England scored 47-2 off the first 10 overs.
Jonny Bairstow (39) was then bowled after failing to pick Zampa’s googly – the leg-spinner recalled after being dropped despite a turning pitch for the last match at Brisbane – before Hazlewood returned to remove Joe Root, who chopped on after scoring 27.
But after Morgan and Buttler had patiently rebuilt the innings, Australia’s bowlers had no answer to the inventive and aggressive late assault.
‘The best win we’ve ever had’ – reaction
Man of the match Jos Buttler: “It’s the best win we’ve ever had – the way we were challenged throughout, Plunkett getting injured, Joe sticking his hand up to bowl the overs, and still fighting, and to win the series.”
England captain Eoin Morgan, on the final two ODIs: “We’re certainly going to be playing our strongest possible XI, and hopefully it’s good enough for us to put in winning performances.”
Australia skipper Steve Smith: “We were chasing 30 too many and we couldn’t get that momentum going. We probably batted better than in the first two games but it wasn’t enough.”
On his controversial dismissal: “I was given out so I had to get off the field. I wasn’t batting very well anyway so it gave someone else a chance.”