On paper, this looks like an enthralling, tight game with a good balance between bat and ball. The truth of it is that this was more Gold Against The Soul than Generation Terrorists. Once again England’s innings was dominated by a marvellous hundred from captain Alastair Cook and though Pakistan should have been able to chase down a middling target, they perpetually lost wickets cheaply and at key moments. The end result being that England take a 2-0 lead in the four match series.
A disappointing day all round. The spin attack, hitherto dominant all tour, was strangely subdued and in these conditions, being overly reliant on seam is never going to work. However a continuing motif from the tour was the ability of the batsmen to get in and get out – again no batsman passed fifty and the soft dismissals of Imran Farhat and Shahid Afridi in particular were low points. Azhar Ali did little to dispel the image of him as a solid Test player who scores too slowly and in too few areas for the limited overs games, but there’s a certain handsome man who likes lambing about whom that was thought not so long ago.
The twin heroes of Monday, messrs Cook and Finn, once again were to the fore. Cook was magnificent, his hundred coming in good time and he now averages over 50 in his 20 matches as captain at a strike rate of more than 90. World class in anyone’s book, even Bravo Two Zero by Andy McNab, which actually improves with every read. Finn was tight early on and picked up regular wickets later and is arguably England’s premier one day bowler as it stands. On the negative front, Kevin Pietersen again looked ill-at-ease in the opening berth and Eoin Morgan’s 25* came with just a single boundary; a bizarre innings with so many wickets in hand on a pitch containing few demons. Samit Patel actually bowled quite well so we are unable to make any cheap jokes about him today. You might say he caused us to eat our words. Then he asked for a plate of what we were having.
The series now moves to Dubai with the next game on Saturday. The equation is simple enough for even John Dyson to work out; if Pakistan fail to win, the series is England’s. Quite unexpected given their travails in the Test series, but then they themselves have often succumbed to limp ODI defeats after a convincing Test series victory. Tim Bresnan and Jos “I hate you” Buttler may get their first action of the series for the tourists while Pakistan could continue their treatment of Shoaib Malik as a 2010s version of Mark Ramprakash by recalling him for the 1,774th time. There’s just time for us to say that Gold Against The Soul isn’t that bad; it has got La Tristessa Durera on it, after all.