England fall short of record chase against resurgent Pakistan

Fine centuries from Joe Root and Jos Buttler in vain as Pakistan bounce back in style

 

Pakistan 348-8 (50 ovs )(M Hafeez 88, B Azam 63, A Ahmed 55; M Ali 3-50) beat England 334-9 (50 ovs) (J Root 107, J Buttler 103; W Riaz 3-82) by 14 runs.

So they can’t chase anything. Even after an immaculate hundred from Joe Root and a typically majestic one from Jos Buttler, England were beaten by a wonderfully tenacious Pakistan side, oblivious to the torments they experienced here against the West Indies three days ago.

Pakistan, reinforcing their reputation for producing tales of the unexpected, won a thrilling encounter, which had a capacity crowd captivated as England tried to pull off the highest run chase in World Cup history. They needed 349 for victory and fell 14 runs short. Sometimes the mistakes – and there were plenty of them – were as entertaining as the moments of magic – and there were a few of those as well.

Pakistan, summoning up the spirit of ’92 after eight ODIs without a victory, held their nerve despite the threat posed by England’s finest, Buttler and Root. Their figures may not suggest this but Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz, neither of whom were in Pakistan’s original World Cup squad, combined resolutely in the final overs; they were not going to allow this game to slip away. Once Buttler had been dismissed England required 61 runs from just over five overs and this was beyond their much-vaunted tail.

England do not lose very often when Root and Buttler have hit centuries but here was an indication of how superbly Pakistan responded to their defeat against the West Indies and how poorly England reacted to their straightforward victory over South Africa.

The discipline England displayed in the field at the Oval against South Africa deserted them in disturbing fashion. They were edgy, impatient and occasionally ill-tempered. It was as if they had been duped by the dismal display of Pakistan on this ground last week and that they believed all the plaudits that had come their way after their first game. For a while it looked as if they expected, like all of us sagely looking on, an easy ride. When this did not come to pass they became grumpily distracted.

Eoin Morgan routinely inserted his opponents despite the conditions – a brown pitch and gentle sunshine. He likes to chase runs, ignoring the peculiar tensions that come into play in a World Cup match, even in the preliminary stages. Runs on the board count for more when the match really matters.

Pakistan declined to roll over conveniently this time. Against the West Indies they mustered 105 all out. Here they reached that figure in the 19th over with one wicket down. All the batsmen were eager to atone for last Friday’s rout.

They produced a spirited, measured performance with the bat but they were assisted by the fact that England were so badly out of kilter in the field. This was reflected by a poor review against Imam-ul-Haq, fielders being all too easily riled by comments from the stands and most obviously a dropped catch by Jason Roy, who seemed out of control for most of the day. This was a skier from the bat of Mohammed Hafeez on 14, the sort that Roy would routinely catch in practice, after which the threat of Adil Rashid, who was bowling at the time, was greatly diminished. Hafeez would punish England for this error with the outstanding knock – 84 from just 62 balls – in a Pakistan innings in which all the top five fired.

England were grateful for 10 overs of controlled off-spin from Moeen Ali, who took the first three wickets to fall via an alert stumping by Buttler and two excellent catches in the deep by Chris Woakes, who would finish with four in total, a record for an English outfielder in ODI cricket.

Mark Wood also impressed on his return to the side generating good pace, two wickets and managing to retain a modicum of control in the final overs. But on this occasion, on this pitch, the bowlers needed more than the scanty support that they received in the field; there were misfields, overthrows and some understandable scowls – even from the new boy Jofra Archer – as runs were donated as freely as election promises.

Soon the anxieties England displayed in the field were mirrored at the crease. Roy tried an ill-judged sweep against Shadab Khan and was given lbw; this misjudgment was compounded by another, with Jonny Bairstow an accomplice. The openers decided to review even though the ball was shown to be bang on target.

Bairstow only flickered before nibbling at Wahab and Morgan, having been pinned down for three balls by Hafeez, was bowled by a quicker delivery, while Ben Stokes was caught behind off the other veteran off-spinner, Shoaib Malik. From 118 for four the bankers, Root and Buttler, gave England hope. Both played predictably to their strengths. Root composed, getting off strike with ease, Buttler delivering enough powerful strikes to keep the required run-rate in the right vicinity as they added 130 together. Both departed immediately after reaching three figures, in each case caught at short third man.

The target of 58 from the last five overs with four wickets remaining was too much against Wahab and Amir despite the scurrying of Woakes and Moeen. So Pakistan deservedly prevailed to reignite their campaign. Meanwhile England’s out-cricket had been slapdash and their confidence that they can chase anything at their beloved Trent Bridge flawed.

Despite the heroics of Root and Buttler they did not deserve to win, which created the oddity of the first two centurions of the tournament ending up on the losing side. – Guardian

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