Pakistan square series

After Saturday’s blip, Pakistan repeated the performances that won them the test series, with a comfortable 7-wicket win. The toss was won again by England, and again they chose to bat on a good batting track.

Unsurprisingly, they had their sights set on a big total, anything less would not be enough for a strong Pakistan line-up, unchanged from Saturday. England made a slight adjustment, with Vikram Solanki taking Plunkett’s role as Super Sub, and the Durham youngster slotting in at number 9.

Indeed, England made a similar start, scoring at a decent rate for the first few overs with Matt Prior looking in good touch. Shoaib’s slower ball proved a deadly weapon in the test series, and he used it to great effect against Trescothick today, clipping the stand-in captain’s off stump with one he did not read. 4 balls later in a fiery 7th over, a lethal bouncer beat Strauss, catching his glove and the ever-impressive Kamran Akmal took a fine high catch.

Pietersen and Prior added 44 in just over 6 overs, but 2 wickets in an over again rocked England. This time in was Shoaib’s partner in crime, Rana Naved. Pietersen struck the Sussex bowler for 4 boundaries in his previous over, but tried one leg side shot too many, missed one and was bowled. Fresh from staying up until 3am to receive the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award, Andrew Flintoff did not exactly remind the world of why he won it. A pull shot off his 4th ball found substitute fielder Yasir Hameed at midwicket, and England were now 74-4.

Prior’s 32 came to an end shortly afterwards, an off-cutter from Abdul Razzaq found its way between bat and pad, and into his offstump. Following some treatment on his calf, an eager Shoaib Akhtar returned to make life difficult for England’s lower order. Another short ball found the batsman’s glove, that of Geraint Jones, and Younis Khan made no mistake at slip. Blackwell managed to get 2 fours off a Shoaib over, but the Rawalpindi Express got his revenge, beating the Somerset allrounder for pace and uprooting his off-peg.

Paul Collingwood’s watchful 23 was a beacon of hope for England, but he offered a tame return catch to Danish Kaneria. Desperate times call for desperate measures, and 130-8 fits the bill perfectly. Cue Super Sub Vikram Solanki, to come in at number 10, sacrificing the bowling of James Anderson. At this point Pakistan also made their substitution, replacing Kaneria with Arshad Khan due to the former’s injured shoulder.

In his first innings, Plunkett exceeded any expectations that may have been placed on him. With spin at both ends, and only 4 fielders in the circle, singles came easily. Plunkett and Solanki did more than milk the spinners though, as proved by Plunkett heaving Malik over midwicket, and a cheeky reverse sweep from Solanki. The partnership for the 9th wicket was 100, an English record.

Upon Shoaib’s return, the innings wrapped itself up rather quickly. Plunkett’s 56 ended with a top-edged pull stroke, Shoaib himself taking the catch. With the batsmen crossing, Solanki took strike but a direct hit from Younis Khan at cover left Harmison short of his ground, and England all out 230, which was better than they would have hoped at 130-8.

Recovery or no recovery, England would be kidding themselves if they thought 230 was enough. Pakistan kept faith with Akmal opening, and they would get their reward for doing so today. Pakistan once again made a lively, although there was less need for one today.

England needed early wickets, but none were to come. Butt and Akmal played well, scoring sensibly at nearly 6 an over. Flintoff got himself a wicket when Butt played down the wrong line, and when Collingwood’s slower ball almost inexplicably found its way through Younis’ defences England had a glimmer of hope. This would never be any more than a glimmer, and was gone all too soon for England.

Mohammad Yousuf was watchful, with no real need to attack, but Akmal, continued to attract comparisons with Adam Gilchrist with his persistence in playing his shots. Plunkett could not repeat his batting performance with the ball, with Akmal quick to pounce on anything wide he and Durham team-mate Harmison offered.

Akaml’s well deserved century came up off 108 balls, but he perished shortly after, pulling Harmison to midwicket. Inzamam Ul-Haq came to the crease and made light work of the quickly diminishing target. The third of 4 boundaries off Plunkett brought him his 11,000th run in ODI cricket, and a single off Collingwood a few overs later brought Pakistan their 231st run of the innings, and the win was theirs.

The series is now level at 1-1, and with 3 matches still to play both sides will still have high hopes of winning, but Pakistan will be boosted by the return of Shahid Afridi from his ban. Youngsters from both sides impressed today, but our Man of the Match: Kamran Akmal did his reputation as one of the best young keeper-batsmen in the world no harm at all.

England 230 all out
Liam Plunkett 56, Vikram Solanki 39*
Shoaib Akhtar 5-53, Rana Naved 2-42

Pakistan 231-3
Kamran Akmal 102, Salman Butt 43, Inzamam Ul-Haq 35*

Pakistan win by 7 wickets

Cricket Web Man of the Match :
Kamran Akmal

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