England take opener

The test series was England’s first loss in 2 years. Today they made the best start to winning their first ODI series since flaying Zimbabwe a year ago.

The coin came up England’s way, and Marcus Trescothick made no hesitation in making first use of a good pitch. England brought in Matt Prior, gave Liam Plunkett a debut as Super Sub and somewhat surprisingly, Vikram Solanki was preferred to Ian Bell. Pakistan’s side bore much resemblance to that they beat England last week, with Abdul Razzaq coming in for Hasan Raza, Younis Khan reclaiming his spot from Asim Kamal, and off-spinner Arshad Khan in the role of substitute.

England have been familiar with Marcus Trescothick taking the aggressive role as opener, but with Strauss slotting down to number 3, Matt Prior strutted his stuff at the top of the order. Off the mark with a boundary off Sussex team mate Rana Naved, he quickly signalled his intentions. Naved struck back a few overs later, but removing Trescothick with a slower ball.

Now a father, and with a run of less than flattering scores in the test series behind him, Andrew Strauss was keen to make an impression in the shorter form of the game. He did not disappoint. When Prior fell lbw to a full toss from Sami after he shared a partnership of 51 with Strauss, who looked in good touch, it brought Kevin Pietersen to the wicket. With England’s batting extending down to Blackwell at 9, the flamboyant Pietersen was able to play with even more freedom than usual.

Danish Kaneria has not been a regular in Pakistan’s one-day side, and his bowling today was testament to that. After Pietersen had played himself in, both Kaneria and Shoaib Malik were dispatched high and far over the midwicket fence. While Pietersen blazed 7 more boundaries on his way to 50 off 35 balls, Strauss brought up his half-century. With Pietersen wreaking such havoc, it was easy to forget about Strauss, but he played a vital role, with smart running and placement, whilst still managing to score at nearly a run a ball.

Pietersen was eventually stumped off a wide from Shoaib Malik, a tidy piece of glovework from Kamran Akmal. Thankfully for Pakistan, the carnage was over for a short while, but only while Flintoff played himself in. While he did this, Strauss edged closer to his 3rd century. But he would not get there, pulling a long hop from Kaneria down Butt’s throat.

With a total of more than 300 well within England’s reach, the stage was set for some fireworks from Flintoff. Ably supported by Collingwood, 90 runs were added in the last 11 overs. Flintoff repeated Pietersen’s act of launching sixes off the spinners, and he was allowed plenty of the strike by a scampering Collingwood. Shoaib Akhtar and Rana Naved tried their best at the death, but the rampant Flintoff and Collingwood were too good for them, although they can count themselves lucky at several yorkers being squeezed away for 4.

In a chaotic last 5 overs, 53 runs were added. Flintoff added another six off Rana Naved, in an over that went for 23; while Collingwood demonstrated what to do when fine leg is brought up, sweeping into the region backward of square frequently.

It could have been worse for Pakistan, but Akhtar managed to restrict the 49th over to 6 runs, while a controlled over by Mohammad Sami cost just 4. But still, 327 was the total, England’s highest on foreign soil but after New Zealand’s heroics earlier today, it was still possible for Pakistan to pull it off.

The decision to open with Akmal and Butt quickly backfired for Pakistan. The keeper bottom edged a pull from Anderson onto his stumps for 5. In the test matches, Butt played in quite a reserved manner. Not so today. Together with Younis, he took the attack to England’s bowlers, and Pakistan raced to 68 off 10 overs. Both quickly brought up their half centuries, at more than a run a ball. Trescothick declined the opportunity to take a power play at the 15 over mark, and the gamble paid off. Butt’s 67 came to an end, Flintoff catching one at mid-off off Harmison.

Flintoff soon struck another blow to Pakistan’s hopes, Younis Khan caught by Collingwood at point. This united Pakistan’s 2 best batsman at the crease, Yousuf and Inzamam, but the captain, after scoring more than 50 in each innings of the test matches perished for 13. Back down the order, Shoaib Malik startewd to play well, scoring quickly with Yousuf without taking too many risks.

Blackwell was shrewd at one end, not going for a boundary in his 10 overs, while England’s pace bowler carried on fruitlessly. With Pakistan hoping to have plenty of wickets in hand for an assault at the end, debutant Liam Plunkett struck the crucial blow, Yousuf lofting a slower ball high in the air to a running Solanki at long-on.

Razzaq, absent from the tests blasted a four and a six during his brief innings, but another big swing produced a thin edge, and another wicket from Plunkett. After that took the score to 279-6 it was carnage. After bringing up his 50 without a boundary Shoaib Malik was on his way in the same over as Razzaq, top edging a pull which Jones took after a slight fumble. The very next ball Akhtar was run out for 3, and Pakistan’s hopes of victory were well and truly gone.

It was left to Flintoff to finish off the job, Sami was caught at short cover, and Danish Kaneria posed little problem, a fast yorker and that was that. England win by 42 runs.

The result ended Pakistan’s run of 7 ODIs and the trot, and gives England the early running in the 5-match series, which should be a very good one, if today’s match is anything to go by.

England 327-4
Andrew Strauss 94, Andrew Flintoff 72*, Kevin Pietersen 56
Mohammad Sami 1-35

Pakistan 285 all out
Salman Butt 67, Younis Khan 60, Mohammad Yousuf 59
Liam Plunkett 3-51, Andrew Flintoff 3-73

England win by 42 runs

Cricket Web Man of the Match
Andrew Strauss

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