Anderson Stars in England Win

With the series secure, Pakistan took an opportunity to rest three key players, captain Inzamam ul-Haq and pacemen Shoaib Ahktar and Mohammad Sami, offered vital chances to Yasir Hameed and Arshad Khan, and blood a debutant in Mohammad Asif. Marcus Trescothick, having eyed up a turning pitch in Rawalpindi, replaced Ian Bell with Shuan Udal, who had played his last ODI ten years ago.

Perhaps a little fearful of offering the Pakistani spinners last bowl on a rough surface, Trescothick won the toss and chose to bat. He might soon have regretted it: firstly he dragged on to give Asif a wicket inside his first over, before Matt Prior clipped a half-volley to mid-wicket to leave England in deep water at 21 for two.

One of the few positives to have come out of this series for England appears to be how comfortably Andrew Strauss has settled into his new role in the crucial number three position. Coming into a backs-to-the-wall situation today, he instantly put his foot on the brake and neutered the rampant Pakistani seamers. Together with Vikram Solanki he consistently punctured the screen of fielders in the covers. Having seen the pair settle in, Younis Khan, the stand-in captain, soon changed tack, introducing Arshad Khan, the tall off-spinner, into the attack. Soon strangled by spin and with the runs evaporating fast, Strauss, whilst on 26 attempted the predictable Stalingrad-style breakout to lift the siege, and was left marooned in no-man’s land; the ball gripped and deviated sharply past Strauss’ outside edge as Akmal completed a simple stumping.

Andrew Flintoff, who has spent much of the tour suffering from the post-Ashes hangover and was unable to bowl today, scratched around against the spinners at first and left the majority of the strike to Solanki. The fans, baying for the usual Flintoff carnage were left slightly disappointed, as the England batsmen became more and more constricted as Pakistan turned the screw. One short of his half-century, Solanki also attempted to break the shackles imposed by the spinners and drove low to extra-cover off Afridi, who finished with the economical figures of one for 37. Paul Collingwood, the ideal man for the situation, was the new batsman, and he and Flintoff gradually brought the tourists back into the game as they sought to up the run-rate.

In the 42nd over, Younis Khan played his unexpected joker card: amongst England’s gradual suffocation the presence of another spinner, Danish Kaneria, had gone unnoticed as the Super Sub. He replaced Mohammad Asif, who ened with figures of two for 14. With the slow bowlers still operating a substantial distance into the final ten overs, Flintoff had little choice but to chance his arm against the wily Naved-ul-Hasan who returned to bowl the 45th over. His loose drive met only air, and he lost his middle stump to a cleverly bowled inswinger. Ian Blackwell fell next ball, trapped flat-footed on the crease, and England were wobbling once more with very little on the board. Collingwood remained his usual cool self, aptly manoeuvring the ball around the outfield and running aggressively. His exuberant pushes into the gaps proved his partner’s downfall: Geraint Jones was just inches short of his ground after swift fielding from Yasir Hameed and nimble glovework from Kamran Akmal. Collingwood himself fell in the next over amid constant referrals to the third-umpire, attempting a touch-and-go two to long-on. Shaun Udal then dollied a catch to mid-on as England were left contemplating being bowled out yet again.

Liam Plunkett though provided the surge of adrenaline for England to carry over into the Pakistani innings. Clobbering the final three balls of the 50th over, bowled by Razzaq, for four, four, six, he gave England a lethal shot of impetus with which to drive home as he plundered twenty-four off twelve balls and the tourists closed on 206 for nine in their stipulated fifty overs.

It had been mooted that perhaps Pakistan would twist and open with Shahid Afridi, but instead they stuck with Salman Butt and the in-form Kamran Akmal. Like their English counterparts they both fell early, as Salman dragged on Butt, mirroring Trescothick’s dismissal, while Kamran swished to slip.

From then on, Mohammad Yousuf and Yasir Hameed provided the mainstay of the innings, with knocks complete with classically sub-continental wristy strokes and elegant cover glides. England seemed consigned to waiting for a breakthrough, but neither Blackwell nor Udal had the potency of the Pakistani spinners.

Eventually Hameed lost his nerve, and Udal snared him, stumped, looking to go over the top for a laboured 57 off 105 balls. Yousuf, now joined by his captain, Younis Khan, continued to manipulate the field, even as the run rate gradually crept up towards five and over. Yousuf appeared to be in total control; how many times had he done this job for Pakistan, in Pakistan? Possibly he was, a little like Anderson, still weary after the drama of Monday night, for he too fell upon reaching his fifty, skying an innocuous Blackwell delivery to Anderson in the deep, only an over after the same bowler had dismissed Younis.

The cork then truly flew out of the bottle, and a sticky mess of wickets was spilt all around the Rawalpindi Cricket Stadium. Shoaib Malik’s heave at Blackwell only fell into the safe hands of Vikram Solanki; Shahid Afridi was castled as he fell away, attempting to dig out a superb Anderson yorker which spiralled back into his stumps. Abdul Razzaq departed similarly, and then the Pakistani task then monumental, with the run rate rocketing whilst the wickets tumbled. Even the late efforts of Naved, who throttled a six over mid-wicket, proved belated as the last pair of Danish and Arshad failed to muster eleven from the final over. Anderson completed the job, and picked up the match award to boot; Anderson + Pakistan = carnage.

England 206 for nine (50 overs)
Vikram Solanki 49, Andrew Flintoff 39; Paul Collingwood 33

Pakistan 200 for nine (50 overs)
Yasir Hameed 57, Mohammad Yousuf 54; James Anderson four for 48; Ian Blackwell three for 29

England won by 6 runs

Leave a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until they have been approved

More articles by George Roberts