England cruise at Trent Bridge

Half-centuries from Ian Bell and Andrew Strauss guided England to an easy eight-wicket win in the fourth ODI in Nottingham despite a lively Abdul Razzaq innings.

England hadn’t won an ODI against a full nation since their consolation success against at Jamshedpur in April – and they hadn’t won a “live” match since they posted 327 in Lahore four months earlier. With Pakistan’s experiment in run-chasing at the Rose Bowl having been successful, Inzamam took the logical option and batted first on calling correctly, where Jon Lewis continued his impressive streak with the new ball.

Mohammad Hafeez had struck two boundaries off Stuart Broad’s first over, but an attempted repeat only found Strauss at first slip – and in his very next over the Gloucestershire man struck again. Younis Khan was defeated by another away swinger and picked out Collingwood at second slip, prompting England to bring in a third slip and hope for a third scalp – and they should have done.

A ballooning edge from Shahid Afridi – who despite a massive straight six off Broad, hadn’t reached the run-a-ball mark so often expected off him – looped down to substitute Rikki Clarke at third man, who shelled it. The all-rounder’s blushes were spared in the very next over however, as Sajid Mahmood delivered a rare straight one and pinned Afridi in front of middle stump.

There was a even rarer sights to behold as the much-maligned Lancastrian bowled a maiden to Inzamam – only the second of a 73-over career, but normality swiftly restored itself when the Pakistani captain hit three boundaries off Mahmood soon after. Inzamam and Mohammad Yousuf then rebuilt, slowly accumulating their way through the middle overs of the innings, before Michael Yardy struck twice in three balls.

The Sussex left-armer, whose bowling has been compared to Sanath Jayasuriya, hurried a 79mph arm ball through Yousuf’s defences before persuading Shoaib Malik to chip his second ball straight back to him. It became part-time spinners three, specialist batsmen nil a moment later when Inzaman lobbed another return catch, this time Jamie Dalrymple the beneficiary.

Neither Kamran Akmal nor Abdul Razzaq at seven and eight triggered an acceleration in the following overs, and when Akmal’s dab off Yardy – who ended with 3-24 on debut – only found Strauss at slip, Pakistan were 138-7 and in deep trouble. England even tried Kevin Pietersen’s bowling, but too short and too wide leaked two boundaries to a Razzaq who was slowly warming to his task.

Stuart Broad accounted for Shoaib Akhtar, before being inexplicably taken off for Mahmood for the final two overs. Eleven runs apiece from the 47th, and the 48th (bowled by Lewis) weren’t catastrophic – but then Razzaq exploded. Six, five wides, four leg byes, six, four, one, one, six, another leg bye, one, six, six. 47 runs had come from 12 balls, 69 from 24, Razzaq had gone from 30 to 75 in 16 balls, and suddenly England had a target to chase.

In the end, it didn’t really matter. Despite the approaching dusk, neither Shoaib nor the highly-rated Mohammad Asif were able to find the same degree of swing that Lewis had earlier. The visitors thought they had Strauss’ wicket when he nicked to Inzamam in the cordon, but the third umpire didn’t agree with the Pakistani captain on the matter of the ball’s carry. There was no question six overs later however, when Joyce fenced Asif to a tumbling Akmal.

The arrival of Ian Bell brought no respite, the Warwickshire batsman making the most of the powerplays by crunching the Pakistani seam attack behind and in front of square on the offside at will, and in spite of England’s spin success, none of the Pakistani twirlers had the same effect. Mohammad Hafeez managed to account for Andrew Strauss, the England captain sweeping all around a straight ball that headed straight for leg stump – but it was no more than a kink on the victory path. Kevin Pietersen found the time to reacclimatise himself with the middle of a cricket bat, swatting Hafeez back over his own head for a one-bounce four to end the match with 22 balls to spare.

The series comes to an end on Sunday at Edgbaston, and maybe – just maybe – England have turned the corner.

Pakistan 235-8
Abdul Razzaq 75*, Inzamam-ul-Haq 47
Michael Yardy 3-24, Jon Lewis 2-49

England 237-2
Ian Bell 86*, Andrew Strauss 78
Mohammad Hafeez 1-21, Mohammad Asif 1-34

England won by eight wickets

Pakistan lead the series 2-1 with one match remaining

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Michael Yardy (England) – 10-1-24-3

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