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England face imposing target
England must pull off a ground record run chase to clinch the NatWest Series after Shane Watson dominated Australia's 298 all out at the Ageas Bowl.
Watson's 143 and Michael Clarke's 76 were innings on a different plane from what surrounded them in another often patchy Australia performance as Ben Stokes finished with a maiden one-day international five-wicket haul.
England were unable to contain Watson and Clarke during a brutal stand of 163 in 22 overs, after Stokes (five for 61) had taken his first two wickets in two balls to reduce the tourists to 48 for three.
Either side of the fourth-wicket partnership, though, Australia were especially unconvincing and ended up with a total which appeared barely par on a quick and true pitch.
Watson hit 12 fours and six sixes from 107 balls, including 26 in boundaries off Joe Root's final over.
He and Clarke had already hit James Tredwell out of the attack again, as at Emirates Old Trafford last week - and it was only when the Australia captain fell to debutant Chris Jordan (three for 51) in an early batting powerplay that England began to drag back control.
Jordan, called in to take the new ball in the injured Steven Finn's absence, saw his first and fourth deliveries dispatched for four past cover by Aaron Finch after Australia chose to bat first in this day-night fixture.
Jordan made short work of Phil Hughes, though. The left-hander was tucked up by extra bounce as he shaped to pull and succeeded only in lobbing a simple catch into the leg-side ring.
Finch, on the ground where he smashed a Twenty20 world-record 156 last month, was undeterred as he and number three Watson tried to set the tone in the powerplay overs.
A half-hour break for a passing shower did them no favours, however. Finch smeared a catch straight to Eoin Morgan at point from Stokes' first ball after the resumption, and Matthew Wade made a golden duck when he gloved an attempted pull behind.
Clarke, cleared to play after all despite another scare with his chronic back injury, therefore joined Watson as Australia eschewed a rebuilding process in favour of all-out counter-attack.
Among a stream of boundaries, 10 fours and a six belonged to Clarke in his run-a-ball stay which eventually foundered on a mistimed big hit at Jordan only as far as mid-off.
Then Root, bowling his off-spin round the wicket in place of Tredwell, got George Bailey cheaply - over-balancing as he missed a sweep and stumped by Jos Buttler.
Watson and Clarke had set an ominous platform, yet Australia were to make only 96 for seven in the scheduled last 20 overs.
It was the returning Stokes who did the most damage, adding two wickets in three balls to his earlier two-in-two.
First, he had Adam Voges caught-behind with some extra bounce outside off-stump; then in the 45th over, Watson edged behind too as he went for another big hit to add to his Root onslaught and Mitchell Johnson poked back a simple return catch.
Buttler finished with five victims and England's new guard of Stokes, Jordan and the economical Boyd Rankin demonstrated encouraging resilience.