England Tie Series!!

Hell froze over, pigs flew over the Bullring and a blue moon shone brightly in the sky. What, you ask? Well, you will probably believe those three statements more than the three I am about to present you with. England won a second successive ODI, Saj Mahmood got Man of the Match and the series ended in a 2-2 draw today in Birmingham, after a low scoring encounter on a tricky wicket. So low scoring, in fact, that nobody passed 50, Younis Khan the top scorer with 47.

The conditions clearly favoured the bowlers, and England won the toss and stuck Pakistan in. The openers worked hard for their runs, at low strike rates, but lasted the new ball. Having toiled away for close on an hour for just 15 runs, Imran Farhat then became the victim of a tight run-out call. He nudged an inside edge past his stumps and started to run a single, Hafeez sent him back and Chris Read flicked the ball onto the stumps before he could get back. It had taken 12 overs coming, but England had made a breakthrough at little expense, and they took another scalp in the next over. Chris Read stood up to Lewis’s delivery, thus preventing Afridi, batting at 3, from charging down the track. Lewis’s delivery headed towards offstump, Afridi heaved at it, missed, and his stump was dislodged. He had made just 2 and England were delighted. It was just reward for Lewis, who had bowled well from the beginning.

In the next over, Pakistan found themselves three down, Hafeez finding himself dismissed for 18 from 37 balls. Mahmood sent a short one down outside of offstump, and Hafeez’s attempt to pull ended up with his stumps being knocked over. That wicket brought Younis Khan and Mohammed Yousuf together at the crease, and England fans must have been fearing that their good position would soon become a distant memory. However, the feared duo scored just 17 together in five and a half overs, before Mahmood struck again. Mahmood was showing a lot more of the promise he has done in Tests here, much as he did on Friday. He removed Yousuf, with a little help from Andrew Strauss who took a fantastic catch at slip. Mahmood sent his delivery in at a tricky length, and Yousuf’s attempt at driving resulted in a big outside edge. He has had a great summer, but it finished with a low score, 11.

Khan was seeing partners come and go like there was no tomorrow, and the skipper was next to depart, for just two runs. Paul Collingwood, playing in his 100th ODI, was the man to remove him, trapping him right in the middle of his crease. Some felt it may have been going over, for me it was plumb and England were now in dreamland, with Pakistan 72-5. That brought Abdul Razzaq to the crease, and he had done a lot of damage at the death at Trent Bridge, making what should have been an easy chase a potentially tricky one. Here, however, he lasted 25 balls, and inflicted just two runs damage. Batting in the middle orders on a tricky wicket was a different proposition for him, and Collingwood got another scalp, his 50th in ODIs, by clean bowling him. Collingwood had sent the ball down at a good length and it had nipped back in. At 91-6, Pakistan must have been worrying, and rightly so. Kamran Akmal was the next to make a quick departure, scoring 4 from 8, Yardy’s tweaker bringing out a fine catch from Read. Dalrymple shortly after removed Naved-ul-Husen for 8 runs, Pakistan were 124-8 with ten overs remaining and things were looking rosy for England.

Amidst all the carnage, Younis Khan did his best to hold things together, and was given Man of the Series for his efforts. He batted resolutely for his 47, with his team-mates dishearteningly failing all around him. Younis himself, though, was the ninth, and final Pakistan wicket to fall as he fired Dalrymple’s delivery to Ed Joyce at third man. There were six overs remaining and Pakistan’s slim chances of a revival at the death were all but removed with Khan. Anjuum and Asif added twenty runs, but it left England’s target as 155. It would normally be a foregone conclusion at this point, but don’t forget, it’s England we’re talking about here.

England obviously had somewhere to be, as Strauss and Joyce scored quickly from the first 17 balls. At that point they were 23 without loss, and Ed Joyce had just fired off successive boundaries for his first runs. They were also to be his last as he left one from Asif which swung back in and removed his offstump. He will be furious with himself, and has failed to take advantage of his opportunity in Trescothick’s absence. The next over, from Anjum, was a cracker, but Strauss was clearly playing a patient game now, with no need to try and score too quickly. He left the good balls, and sent the bad ones for 4, and took England to 45-1 after 7 overs, an impressive start.

Like Yousuf, Bell’s impressive summer ended in disappointment as he was dismissed for just 2. Bell edged to gully off Asif, with Farhat taking the catch. There was clearly no need to panic just yet though, but then things became worrying with the next ball as the Captain was dismissed. Anjum landed one on off, it was moving away, Strauss edged it to Akmal behind. Strauss had contributed a useful 35, but would have fancied staying out for the duration for a low target, and should have scored more. Chalk and cheese were now at the crease, in the form of Pietersen and Collingwood, and Pietersen scored 34 from 33 balls to slim the target down. It was Pietersen as you would expect, scoring quickly, hitting boundaries, and then getting out when set, trying to swipe Afridi down legside, but watching his offstump removed. Afridi wasn’t finished there, removing Dalrymple three balls later, Dalrymple given out lbw to one that was definitely hitting off. Nonetheless, England still had 30 overs and 5 wickets to get just 53 runs, but it was suddenly game on when Collingwood was trapped by Razzaq in the next voer, having scored 22. The situation now clearly needed a cool head, but it was nowhere to be found as Chris Read hooked himself out for just 4. A comfortable position was now a likely defeat; Pakistan had fought back well and England needed 37 runs from their last 3 wickets.

Saj Mahmood hasn’t been the most popular man with England fans this summer, certainly not in the one-day arena. At Edgbaston, though, he produced the sort of all-round performance other team’s players always seem to produce. His figures aren’t ones which will send shockwaves throughout the world, but his dismissals included Yousuf, and at the crease he became England’s matchwinner, supported ably by Michael Yardy. The pair took their time initially, scoring when they could, bthen in over 30, Mahmoodn unleashed, hitting three successive fours and suddenly England needed just six more runs. They ahd twenty overs to get them if they wanted to. Mahmood tied the scores with a leg bye, before Yardy finished things off, pushing one past Asif for the winning run.

There were nineteen overs to spare, and England were delighted. All the talk of turned-corners needs to be carefully done, but nonetheless, these last two victories, and even the defeat which preceeded it, have been encouraging, and whilst only a silly or brave man would bet on England doing anything noteworthy at the Champions’ Trophy, perhaps now the fear of humiliation has been lessened. In fact, forget the level-headedness, bring on India, and Australia!

Pakistan 154-9
Younis Khan 47, Mohammad Hafeez 18
Jamie Dalrymple 2-13, Paul Collingwood 2-23

England 155-7
Andrew Strauss 35, Kevin Pietersen 34
Shahid Afridi 2-14, Abdul Razzaq 2-23

England win by three wickets

Series tied 2-2

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Sajid Mahmood (England) 10-2-24-2, 22*

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