England overcame James Anderson's injury-enforced absence to restrict Australia to 251 for seven in Sunday's second NatWest Series match at The Oval.

Opener Shane Watson's half-century hinted at much better from an Australia innings which stalled alarmingly in the 'middle overs'.

Watson (66) reached 50 with his eighth four at a run-a-ball but took another 30 over his last 14 runs, before George Bailey cashed in his lengthy reconnaissance in a career-best 65.

The tourists, hoping to level the five-match series at 1-1 here, chose to bat first and reached three figures in the 20th over. But there was just one boundary, for the loss of Michael Clarke's wicket, in the next 10 overs as Graeme Swann in particular put the brakes on.

It was the off-spinner too who got rid of Watson, unable to do any more than chip a straightforward catch into the wind to deep midwicket as he tried to revive the scoring rate. Jade Dernbach took the new ball alongside Steven Finn, as the latter saw off the dangerous David Warner early, mistiming a pull for an easy catch into the leg-side ring.

Watson had some fortune on his side, dropped by Jonathan Trott in the gully on eight off Dernbach and twice surviving via DRS when Stuart Broad thought he might have him lbw. He and number three Peter Forrest had to start again, after a half-hour rain stoppage midway through the 12th over.

Broad interrupted any momentum, when he had Forrest deflecting the ball down the leg-side - where a diving Craig Kieswetter took a very good catch.

England's seamers were struggling to control their lines, bowling an extra over of wides in the first 16 as they tried to cramp Watson's off-side strokeplay and kept drifting down leg. But Ravi Bopara's part-time medium-pace immediately brought the substantial bonus of Clarke's wicket, attempting to farm off-side runs but getting an inside-edge behind instead.

Thereafter, Watson and Bailey got stuck as Australia appeared to place their faith in the concept of wickets in hand. Bailey roused himself to reach his second one-day international fifty in 72 balls.

Bailey and David Hussey, brilliantly run out by Finn, did enough in a stand of 78 to just about keep Australia in the game. But after Bresnan beat a Bailey heave for the first of two wickets in four balls, the tourists still seemed well short of par.