Afridi Powers Pakistan To Win

After all the politicking, toy-throwing and general chaos of the last week, Pakistan will have been pleased to be back on the cricket field today, although they showed no sign of instability in a dismissive five-wicket win over England in a Twenty20 International at Bristol.

Buoyed by the return of the talismanic paceman Shoaib Ahktar, Pakistan produced their best performance of the tour to push aside a disappointing England outfit. Shahid Afridi was the main attraction, smashing a rapidfire 28 from number four to enable the tourists to chase down England’s modest total of 144 with overs to spare.

Andrew Strauss won the toss and did not hesitate to bat first on what appeared to be a fairly easy-paced County Ground wicket. Five overs and three balls later, he probably regretted his decision. Despite hammering Ahktar for three successive fours early on, Marcus Trescothick could only watch as the wickets clattered. Ian Bell nudged Ahktar to Younis Khan at slip for 14, before the impressive Mohammad Asif ripped out Pietersen’s middle stump with a snorter, and pushed one across Strauss himself, which was duly edged behind. Paul Collingwood departed not long afterwards, caught by keeper Kamran Akmal off Naved-ul-Hasan, and England were adrift at 50 for four.

Allying himself with Jamie Dalrymple, Trescothick began to steadily rebuild the England innings. In the face of some testing Pakistan bowling, the pair added 47 for the fifth wicket, as Trescothick powered himself to a second International Twenty20 fifty. He eventually fell for 53 off 36 balls, the first of Abdul Razzaq’s three victims, and Dalrymple perished soon after for 27, spooning to mid-wicket. It was left to Michael Yardy, on England debut, to crash a useful 24, and the final over of the innings disappeared for 14.

Darren Gough, on his return to the international fold, took the new ball, and should have had an early wicket when Shoaib Malik flashed through the slips. However it was the young blood from the opposite end that impressed the most. Stuart Broad, the six foot five 19-year old debutant, held a controlled line and at one point was on a hat-trick: first nipping the ball back into Malik to trap him LBW before Younis Khan gloved a rising delivery down the leg-side. Cue Shahid Afridi, whose ten-ball stay at the crease effectively settled the game. Coming in with Broad on a hat-trick, he unleashed his shots from the first ball, and the small boundaries at Bristol were no match even for his miss-hits. Broad’s figures mushroomed from 2-0-8-2 to 4-0-35-2. It was a true slash-and-burn knock – an awesome display of pyrotechnics to leave England’s chances up in smoke.

The introduction of Dalrymple saw Afridi’s downfall for 28, brilliantly caught by the diving Yardy at cow corner, but by that point the required rate was little more than a run a ball and the all but game up. It was left to Mohammad Hafeez, the most experienced Twenty20 player in the Pakistani lineup, to produce a series of thoughtful sweeps and reverse-sweeps in a controlled 46; indeed he should have made his fifty but for Inzamam’s dreadful calling and Collingwood’s deadly arm from backward point. It was left to cameos from Mohammad Yousuf (20), Inzamam (11 not out) and Abdul Razzaq (17 not out) to seal the win for Pakistan with thirteen balls to spare. They must surely go into the five-match NatWest Series as clear favourites, and another five-nil thrashing for England is still a possibility.

England 144-7
Marcus Trescothick 53
Abdul Razzaq 3-30

Pakistan 148-5
Mohammad Hafeez 46, Shahid Afridi 28

Pakistan win by five wickets

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