Sydney:Australia put themselves within touching distance of taking the one-day series with a four-wicket victory at the SCG. David Hussey guided them home in an uncertain run chase with an unbeaten 68 alongside Victoria team-mate John Hastings after Brad Haddin's aggressive 54 set the early pace.
England were kept interested by early wickets and a double for Paul Collingwood but there were always too few runs on the board for a depleted bowling attack.
It was an important innings for Hussey, who reached his fifty with a six, after he was named in the World Cup despite not playing ODI cricket for 18 months and he showed the finishing skills that have so often been evident for his domestic teams.
He had important support from Steve Smith (26) after Australia wobbled on 5 for 114 then, after Smith departed to a horrid swipe, Hastings showed why he's off to the World Cup with a composed 18.
It was a match low on batting quality as England limped to 214 only thanks to Jonathan Trott's determined 84. Continuing their pattern of the series they handed wickets to Australia, this time including the run-out of Andrew Strauss, but the home side weren't blameless when it came to their dismissals.
That at least kept the contest interesting until Hussey rattled down the target with consecutive boundaries off Ajmal Shahzad and Australia had four overs in hand.
When Collingwood, recalled to the side to replace the injured Kevin Pietersen who has a groin strain, claimed two wickets in the first two overs England suddenly sniffed a victory to haul themselves back into the series.
Collingwood failed again with the bat when he missed a straight ball from Xavier Doherty, but trapped Cameron White lbw with his second delivery and then had Haddin, who was earlier dropped on 37, caught at long-on for 54 from a needless shot.
Haddin put Australia well ahead of the rate but kept losing partners. Shane Watson missed a drive at Chris Tremlett in the second over and Shaun Marsh, promoted to No.3, was brought back down to earth after his 110 at Hobart when he was lbw to Shahzad.
Michael Clarke's form showed no signs of improving as he chipped Chris Woakes' sixth ball in one-day international cricket to midwicket, where Michael Yardy juggled the catch.
It should have been 4 for 68 when Haddin drove to mid-off but Tremlett couldn't take the chance low to his left and Haddin brought up his fifty with a fine cover-drive only to put pressure on his team-mates with poor shot selection.
The difference at the moment, though, is Australia's belief is on the rise and England's is taking a hit, which is especially evident in the batting
With the exception of Trott, whose innings is also likely to spark debate, no one covered themselves in any glory against an Australia attack lacking two first-choice options in Nathan Hauritz and Shaun Tait.
Injuries are a problem for both sides - Tim Bresnan has been ruled out of the series - but the hosts are covering their casualty list with much more aplomb. On this occasion, Doherty was impressive with 2 for 37 and Hastings showed his all-round value.
Brett Lee was the overall pick, though, and began England's problems in the first over when he removed Matt Prior lbw for his second consecutive duck since his recall.
A wicket to the new ball is forgivable, but the mix-up between Strauss and Trott was shambolic as they were left standing at the same end. The only reason the third umpire was needed was to decide Strauss was the man to go.
Ian Bell got a leading edge back to Watson who took it with a dive in his follow through before Trott and Eoin Morgan began a recovery with a stand of 50. Morgan, though, had struggled to settle with two near-misses in his innings before pulling a long hop from Hussey to midwicket. He's just lost his knack of finding the gaps.
There was help on offer for the spinners but England made it look even harder. Collingwood opened his account with an edge past leg stump then missed a delivery which took off stump. Yardy continued to struggle when he chipped a limp return catch to the bowler and it left Trott needing to bat out the innings.
He and Luke Wright added 49 but it was slow progress as Trott dealt in singles for 40 consecutive scoring shots, then Wright gave it away with a loose drive at Hastings.
Lee hustled through the lower order and Tremlett's run-out when he failed to ground his bat summed up how England, so outstanding during the Ashes, are starting to make costly basic errors. It's a long way back from here.