Report by Neil Robinson 22/06/03
Another impressive innings from Marcus Trescothick saw England sneak home at Lordís to claim a 2-1 series win over an unfortunate Pakistan. Trescothickís unbeaten 108, a more measured, contained affair than his inspired 86 at The Oval two days earlier, was the key factor in an uneven England performance, characterised by some sloppy batting, indifferent tactics and some lazy running between the wickets from Trescothick himself. Pakistan for their part will have rued the two chances they gave the England opener, on 30 and 93, as well as some dreadful luck with edges not going to hand and run-outs narrowly missed.
Both sides and a full house of spectators were lucky in the extreme when it came to the weather. Heavy overnight storms would probably have washed the game out had the outfield not been relaid with a sandier soil compound last winter. The heavy rain didnít cease until 9.30am and it was little short of miraculous that play got underway only 45 minutes late under still heavy cloud cover. The rain returned, a prelude to another wild night, later on, but with only 6 overs remaining, Umpires Willey and Hair sensibly elected to play on to a conclusion which came in a gloom reminiscent of that in which England famously beat Pakistan at Karachi three years ago. The Pakistanis, surely, must now be wary of playing England in anything less than bright sunshine.
In the circumstances it was hardly surprising that England, upon winning the toss, put Pakistan in to bat. No less surprising was the way in which Pakistanís top order struggled against the moving ball and another strong performance from Englandís pace trio of Anderson, Gough and Flintoff. Flintoff, in particular, bowled magnificently, belying his reputation for bowling accurate spells but few wicket taking balls. His very first delivery produced a skied pull from Imran Nazir which Vaughan pouched with ease. Soon afterwards, a leading edge from Yasir Hameed flew high to Flintoff himself who stretched high to grab it in his follow-through before launching into a full-blown Guy The Gorilla celebration which evoked memories of another England all-rounder of earlier vintage.
Flintoffís opening spell of 5-2-5-2 did much to restrict Pakistanís scoring rate during the first 15 overs. When Yousuf Youhana was caught behind off Clarke, they were 61 for 4 and the only specialist batsman left was Younis Khan, whose performance in this series up to then had involved three balls and two ducks. A more adventurous, or perhaps more experienced captain might have seen this as an opportunity to attack, to rip the heart out of Pakistanís batting before they could regroup, perhaps by rotating his pacemen at one end while Giles kept it tight at the other. But this, it would seem, is not Vaughanís style. The out of form Younis and his partner Shoaib Malik were confronted by spread fields and the bowling of Clarke and McGrath. The field had gone back as soon as the rules permitted. It was captaincy, one felt, by numbers.
In his defence, Vaughan might claim that with Gough and Anderson each having only three overs left, he wanted to save them for the death, and that his back up bowling was never likely to make the breakthrough. Possibly so, but that would seem a clear argument for the inclusion of an extra bowler, presumably Harmison, in the side rather than relying simply on part-time medium pacers to try and get through a few cheap overs. Harmisonís introduction to the one-day side over the winter was, after all, intended as a response to the success Brett Lee had achieved causing havoc with his pace in the middle of the innings.
As it was the game entered one of those dead periods, during which neither side is prepared to risk attacking and settles instead for treading water in anticipation of the carnage to come. Younis and Malik were already well into their partnership of 56 before Flintoff was recalled for another burst from the Nursery End to have Malik caught behind for 23. The new batsman, Abdul Razzaq, then helped Younis add another 48 before Younis fell to the returning Anderson for a welcome 63. It was then, with the score at 165 for 6 and the all-rounders Razzaq and Azhar Mahmood at the crease that all hell broke loose.
Razzaqís 64 was in the same mould as Trescothickís at The Oval, a clinical, brutal display of well-judged hitting. One straight hit off Clarke sailed high into the top tier at the Nursery End where it was gleefully grabbed by a small pocket of vocal Pakistan fans. Mahmood, not to be outdone, launched an equally impressive blow over midwicket into the Grandstand. Flintoff, whose first 8 overs had produced figures of 3 for 13, went for 19 in his last two. Gough and Anderson received even more of a mauling. Pakistanís eventual total of 229 for 7 was far in excess of what might have been expected a couple of hours earlier. It was a tribute to their openly stated gameplan of keeping wickets in hand for an assault at the end. From Englandís point of view it was a shame that nothing had been thought up to counter it.
Had it not been for Trescothickís skill, a doughty contribution from Chris Read who joined the Somerset opener when all seemed lost and stayed with him until the end, and some dashed good fortune, Pakistan would have had deserved reward for their aggressive tactics and natural flair. There was little else to impress when England batted. Solanki fell early, beaten by a fast outswinger from Sami, then Vaughan and Troughton both played some pleasing shots before each holed out in the deep, for 29 and 20 respectively. The run rate was well within Englandís grasp, and Trescothick was playing once more with exceptional judgement, but an untimely collapse from 129 for 2 to 154 for 6 made it seem as if the balance had swung conclusively towards Pakistan.
Following Troughtonís dismissal, Flintoff drove lazily to mid-off, McGrath was brilliantly stumped by Latif and Clarke, after one glorious off-drive, was strangled down the leg side off what would have been a wide. In dim light and faint hope, Chris Read strode to the middle and changed the course of the game. There is a significant difference in size between burly Trescothick and Englandís pocket-sized wicket-keeper, but there also seemed an uncomfortable distinction between their approaches as Read harried and hustled, pushing hard for each run while Trescothick ambled pleasantly from one end to the other as if still digesting rather too large a portion of pork pie and pickle from his Sunday Lunch.
With every run vital, and the excitement building as this absorbing little series drew towards a suitably nail-biting end, Trescothickís apparent insousciance was greatly at odds with the tension in the stands. There is much to be said for a cool head in the face of adversity, but much also to be said against running so slowly that fairly straightforward twos are turned into leisurely singles. The frustration of a crowd that saw England casually disdaining easy runs in a tight game was entirely understandable. After his opening partnership with Solanki was almost terminated on three occasions by unnecessary run-outs, this is clearly one area of his game that Trescothick needs to look at.
With Mohammad Sami and Shoaib Akhtar steaming in at full pace in poor light, the crucial breakthrough could have come at any moment. There can be little explanation for why it did not. Sami sent two perfect outswingers past Readís bat, Shoaib found the edge of Trescothickís, only for Latif to put the catch down. The ball ran away, as it had once at The Oval, for a crucial boundary. When, in Shoaibís next over, a perfect inswinger beat Readís bat, the leg-stump and Latifís efforts to stop it and ran away for four byes, the balance had shifted conclusively. It was Shoaibís last over. Some scampered ones and twos from Read, finally cajoling some speed out of his partner, then a clipped six over midwicket from Trescothick and England were home. Trescothick, realising the value of his contribution, lifted Read off the ground in a massive bear-hug. There were at least 25,000 Britons in the crowd who would gladly have done the same.
England now go into the triangular NatWest Series with South Africa and Zimbabwe with a valuable win under their belts. There has been much to admire in this young sideís performance, not least its radically improved mobility in the field, and the pace attack seems likely to trouble most opponents. Michael Vaughan too can feel pleased to have got off to a winning start as captain. But he will be concerned that his batting has yet to impose itself upon this form of the game, while all who observed this series will know how much he has to learn about captaincy. Fortunately, in this more forgiving age of renewal and rebuilding, time is on his side in both cases.
Pakistan 229 for 7 (Abdul Razzaq 64, Younis Khan 63, Flintoff 4 for 32)
England 231 for 6 (48.3 overs) (Trescothick 108*, Mohammad Hafeez 3 for 31)
England won by 4 wickets.
England won series 2-1.
Man of the Match:
Man of the Series: