Report by Neil Robinson 20/06/03
One day cricket is supposed to be all about runs, about bat dominating ball, crashing boundaries, desperate fielding, big innings and matches going right to the wire. Anything else the theory goes, leaves the crowd short changed and dissatisfied.
The first two games in the three-match NatWest Challenge between England and Pakistan, have both been low scoring affairs in which the side batting first has been restricted to a low total, which should have proved fairly easy to chase down. Ask anyone who has seen either game, however, and youíll hear no complaints about the entertainment value. At Old Trafford on Tuesday, Pakistan made hard work of Englandís 204 for 9, resulting in a closer finish than anyone could have expected. Three days later at The Oval, a superb bowling performance by England, in which the excellent James Anderson became the first Englishman ever to take a hat-trick in a One-Day International, saw Pakistan bowled out for 185, before a scintillating innings of 86 from just 55 balls by Marcus Trescothick, made sure Englandís successful chase was anything but dull. Tearing into Pakistanís attack, England strode to victory by seven wickets with 28 overs to spare, levelling the series at 1-1 with one to play, the Series decider.
After Tuesdayís disappointment, England captain Michael Vaughan told his players to ďgo out and enjoy their cricket,Ē but with Pakistan electing to bat first, he warned his opening bowlers to set the tone. They did not let him down. With the very first ball of the match, a full length inswinger aimed at middle and off, Imran Nazir was trapped lbw striding too far across his stumps. It was the prelude to a wonderful all-round display from the hosts, in which the three main quick bowlers, Anderson, Gough and Flintoff, once again figured large. If Gough took a little longer to get into his stride this time, Anderson was straight into the groove, his venomous first spell from the Vauxhall End reading 7-2-13-1.
Pakistan struggled to 50 for 2 at the end of the 15 overs, Hafeez falling lbw to Flintoff for 14, but against such disciplined bowling, the visitors found acceleration impossible and wickets began to tumble. Hameed, having made another promising start, chopped onto his stumps via a Gough delivery, to make it 61 for 3. The very next ball, Younis Khan; followed up his duck at Old Trafford with a golden duck here, edging a full length ball that moved away just a fraction to Read. Gough, so nearly could have beaten Anderson to that first ever ODI hat-trick, but the solid, broad bat of Shoaib Malik denied him. The common sense behind that forward defensive stroke soon deserted Malik however, as he quickly ran himself out taking a hurried single to Troughton, something the worldís batsmen are going to have to learn not to do. Troughton, looks the best fielder England have had since Derek Randall back in the 70ís.
He is almost matched in that respect by Vikram Solanki, whose parried, tumbling catch to remove Rashid Latif at backward point, was a model of balance and cool-headedness. At 80 for 6, Pakistan were in dire trouble, but a sensible partnership of 72, at a run a ball between Yousuf Youhana and Azhar Mahmood; steadied the ship until Mahmood drove Clarke to backward point, where Solanki took another fine catch. Youhana, played quite splendidly for his 75 not out and it was good to see him back in good form. Abdul Razzaq, helped him add another 33 before Anderson returned to make history.
It was a loose drive from Razzaq, giving Trescothick a waist-high catch at mid-off that got him underway. Shoaib Akhtar, back from a two game suspension, strode to the wicket, no doubt thinking of his swashbuckling, last-ditch effort against the same opposition in the World Cup not long ago. Anderson, soon disabused him of any notions of a reprise. His first ball was full, just wide of off-stump and swinging away late, Shoaibís bat followed it all the way to the edge, his eyes followed it all the way to the keeperís gloves and the roar of a largely English supporting crowd followed him all the way to the pavilion. What came next, given the fairy-tale nature of Andersonís rise to fame, seemed inevitable. A hat-trick beckoned, Mohammad Sami stood in the way, but if there has ever been a more perfectly aimed yorker than the one which hit the base of Samiís leg stump, I should like to have seen it. Anderson walked from the field to an ovation from his colleagues as well as the capacity crowd. The expression on his face was as much of bemusement as delight.
That should have been it. Pakistan blown away for a plainly indefensible 185, on what can only be described as a belter of a pitch, Andersonís hat-trick and figures of 9-2-27-4, should have sealed the Man-of-the-Match award with England cruising to victory in steady time. However, Marcus Trescothick had other ideas.
Pakistanís one hope was early wickets. In the returning Shoaib Akhtar and the almost as quick Mohammad Sami, they had the firepower on an Oval pitch with sufficient pace and bounce to suit them ideally. Both men steamed in, all fire and brimstone, glaring eyes and flopping hair, ready to wreak havoc. Trescothick, stared calmly back like a torero establishing moral superiority over a bull, then cut them to pieces. It was old school Trescothick, thunderous drives through cover and mid-off, cheeky dabs over the slips, rasping pull shots. He shot to his 50 in 37 balls with 12 fours. It had taken him 11 balls to get off the mark in the first place. Shoaib suffered the worst damage, removed from the attack with figures of 2-0-20-0. It was not the comeback he had imagined.
Realising the futility of defence, Pakistanís captain, Rashid Latif, kept on the offensive, switching the bowling, the fielding, trying everything he could think of, but nothing worked. He brought on the subtle off-spin of Hafeez, it disappeared halfway up the pavilion. He tried another burst from Shoaib, the dab over the slips went for six instead of four. At the other end Solanki leaned on his bat impatiently, wondering when he was going to get a go. Englandís hundred came up in the 11th over and Trescothick looked to be heading for a century of his own until, on 86, he skied a pull off Razzaq and was sent packing. It was 109 for 1. Solanki had scored 8 from 16 balls. The ovation which cheered Trescothick from the field was, if anything, greater than that which had greeted Andersonís hat-trick.
Pakistanís agony didnít end there. Vaughan, announced his presence with two sublime extra-cover drives off Shoaib, who then had Solanki caught behind off a no-ball. Shoaib, smiling wrily, walked back to his mark and rushed back in to bowl an even better ball, one that lifted and moved away, which Solanki could only edge shoulder high to first slip. Younis Khan, barely laid a finger on it, going all the way for four. Pakistanís fielders looked like beaten men. Their bowling figures read more like casualty statistics.
Some pride was regained when Vaughan edged to slip for 10, then Troughton departed for a duck, still to make the same impression with the bat as in the field. But Solanki, despite the odd hairy moment against Shoaib, stood firm to record his highest international score and Flintoff struck 26 off 13 balls to end the innings as it had begun. It was a thoroughly professional performance by England, more than that, it was a stylish and ruthless demolition of an opposition who, while inexperienced, remain highly talented and dangerous. The hosts would do well to remember that last point as they go to Lordís for the final, deciding match of the Series. The momentum is with England however and the selectorsí policy of putting their faith in youth seems close to being justified.
Pakistan 185 (Youhana 75*, Anderson 4-27)
England 189 for 3 off 22 overs (Trescothick 86, Solanki 40*)
England won by 7 wickets
Man of the Match: