Sydney: Eion Morgan made 54 to again provide the backbone of the innings as England reached 243-9 in the third one-day cricket international against Australia, here Sunday.
Morgan followed his brilliant century in Friday`s second international at Brisbane with a half century from 54 balls but his was largely a lone effort in a tired and directionless England batting performance.
Tim Bresnan made an unbeaten 41 from 36 balls at the tail, hitting two sixes from the final over of the innings to add a little gloss to the England total.
Captain Alastair Cook made 35 in his best performance since the second innings of the fourth Ashes test, a series of six innings in which he has only twice reached double figures.
England`s total may yet prove competitive on a sluggish pitch at the Sydney Cricket Ground but the failure of any of its top order batsmen to go on after making starts again seems likely to be costly.
The England innings was effectively in decline from the moment Cook was caught by Glenn Maxwell from the bowling of Nathan Coulter-Nile in the ninth over after he and Ian Bell had shared a rare 50-run opening partnership.
Cook had seemed comfortable at the crease for the first time in weeks when he stepped onto the back foot and drove a short ball from Coulter-Nile directly to Maxwell at cover.
The Australians then delivered a massive blow to English morale when David Warner brilliantly ran out Ian Bell (29) with a direct hit from the outfield. Bell played the ball square on the offside and turned for what seemed an easy second run when Warner swooped, gathered the ball and in one movement hurled down the stumps from side on.
England took the gamble of promoting Ben Stokes to No. 3 in the hope the all rounder might provide some early momentum but that step failed when Stokes took 39 balls to make 15 with no boundaries before being superbly caught by Michael Clarke off Xavier Doherty.
Doherty bowled his 10 overs consecutively at a cost of 28 runs to shackle England`s early scoring.
Gary Ballance made 26 but couldn`t continue with his strong form of the series to date and was out in the 29th over to leave England 121-4. Morgan then once again took responsibility for the innings and batted for 76 minutes for his 54, lifting England to 168-6 before he was out in contentious circumstances.
He offered a difficult return catch to Dan Christian and the bowler made considerable ground then flung himself forward to grab the ball milimeters from the ground. Though he was given out, Morgan refused to leave until television replays confirmed Christian had held the catch and, in the meantime, he exchanged angry words with Clarke.
The next few England batsmen provided feeble resistance before Bresnan slapped three fours and two sixes in his 41 to give the tourists faint hope of saving the series which Australia leads 2-0.
Coulter-Nile finished with 3-47, his best one-day figures, while James Faulkner took 2-35 and Christian 2-52.