England grab shock win

Rookie seamer Liam Plunkett returned match figures of 7 for 57 as he and Ashley Giles combined to save England’s blushes at Rawalpindi.

Resuming overnight at a perilous 39 for 6, the English predicament became instantaneously worse as Ian Bell perished cheaply once again, tentatively playing forward to Yasir Arafat to be trapped leg before.

With Bell back in the pavilion, Paul Collingwood then strengthened his claim for Bell’s place in the Test side, making his way to 34 alongside Marcus Trescothick – batting at the unfamiliar position of nine but still finding the track to his liking.

It was Najaf Shah who broke through Collingwood’s defences and with the Durham man gone, neither Ashley Giles nor Matthew Hoggard were able to stave off Arafat – who finished with a match analysis of 9 for 76 – for long, Trescothick once again unbeaten, this time with 38 to his name.

Neither Hoggard nor James Anderson were able to make significant headway with the new ball, as the Patron’s XI opening pair of Asher Zaidi and Test player Yasir Hameed eased to 50 without loss – with just one alarm as Kevin Pietersen shelled a regulation chance at square leg.

The introduction of Giles, who had missed the second day due to a stomach bug, then turned the game on its head. Hameed first flicked the spinner to Andrew Strauss at midwicket before Bazid Khan was pinned on the crease by a quicker delivery.

Plunkett’s first action was to test out the agility of Matt Prior behind the stumps as his radar slowly stumbled into action, but within the over Ashar had found James Anderson with a leading edge, and Asim Kamal swiftly followed, finding Marcus Trescothick in the slip cordon.

Four wickets had fallen for fifteen runs, and the pace of collapse showed no signs of slowing. Faisal Iqbal slashed another outside edge to Matt Prior before Shahzad Malik chopped on to Giles, and Khalid Latif picked out Strauss with a heave off the same bowler.

Plunkett then removed the last recognised batsman, captain Misbah-ul-Haq on the stroke of tea, again caught by Trescothick. The game now all but won, Shaun Udal entered the attack in the final session to remove Yasir Arafat, caught behind, and Zulqarnain Haider, caught by Michael Vaughan at slip.

Disaster averted, and England somehow victors by the scarcely credible margin of 53 runs after all ten Patron’s XI wickets crumbled for only 55. A combination of Plunkett’s youth and Giles’ guile had seen England through to a positive start of their tour.

England skipper Michael Vaughan was unconcerned at his batsmen’s poor showing, saying, “In these kind of games we obviously want to win, but it’s more important that people get the practice required.”

He also refuted claims that his side would be under-cooked ahead of the First Test. “Of course, the batsmen want time in the middle, but this is a practice match, and mentally, the Test-match environment is very different. Over the last few seasons we have been so-called `undercooked’, but I think we’ve done pretty well.”

Sunday, November 6, sees England move on to Lahore to face Pakistan ‘A’ – and in all likelihood, Yasir Arafat once more, before the First Test at Multan the following Sunday. The tourists are expected to field their likely Test XI for the tour game – with Paul Collingwood expected to edge out Ian Bell to allow Shaun Udal to provide a second full-time spin option alongside Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff and Matthew Hoggard’s pace attack.

England 256-9
Marcus Trescothick 124*, Matt Prior 50
Yasir Arafat 4-45, Najaf Shah 3-58

Patron’s XI 211
Shehzad Malik 37, Zulqarnain Haider 34
Shaun Udal 3-36, Liam Plunkett 3-41

England 112
Marcus Trescothick 38*, Paul Collingwood 34
Yasir Arafat 5-31, Mohammad Irshad 3-42

Patron’s XI 105
Yasir Hameed 30, Ashar Zaidi 26
Liam Plunkett 4-16, Ashley Giles 4-39

England won by 53 runs

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Marcus Trescothick (England)

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