Despite Alastair Cook not winning the toss for once, England still cantered to victory with the result rarely in doubt from the moment that Pakistan’s top order folded once again. It completed a rare away series victory for England, and one achieved with a no little style, as they moved into a 3-0 lead with one game left to play.
In our preview we discussed the various problems with Pakistan’s one-day side, the chief of which was that the balance was all wrong. In an attempt to remedy this they brought in an actual wicketkeeper, with Adnan Akmal replacing his brother behind the stumps at the expense of Abdur Rehman. It really didn’t make much of a difference. Adnan kept up the family tradition, dropping Eoin Morgan, albeit at far too late a stage for it to impact the result.
Pakistan’s batting was again something of a disaster, with the top order crumbling like Mervyn Westfield under pressure. None of the top order made it to 30 in the face of some excellent seam bowling and it was left to Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi to pick up the pieces. This they did with a surprisingly disciplined partnership but both perished as soon as they reached 50 and there was no way back.
With the ball things weren’t much better. Umar Gul’s poor series reached a new low with a third over that threatened to go on forever as free-hit after free-hit was carted to the boundary. None of the spinners could get any sort of control; Saeed Ajmal was the pick but even he went at four an over. Add to that the generally disappointing fielding and it was hard to find any positives for Pakistan to take out of the game at all.
It’s genuinely amazing that the same batsman that looked so clueless during the Test series could look so at ease here. Alastair Cook looked destined for a third consecutive hundred until getting a nick to a decent Ajmal delivery. It probably won’t keep him awake at night. For the other two batsmen these were much more significant innings.
Prior to this game the experiment with Kevin Pietersen opening had produced some scratchy innings but nothing of substance. If another series had passed by without Pietersen making a contribution it would have been hard to ignore the calls for change. In some ways this innings isn’t actually as important as those that follow it – it needs to be base camp in KP’s long climb back up to the top of the ODI tree, rather than just an oasis in his desert of mediocrity. Actually, that makes us sound really pretentious. Let’s explain what we mean with a picture:
We’ve been eulogising the England bowling throughout the tour and this game was no exception. Steve Finn was outstanding yet again, surely pushing himself ahead of Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan and Amjad Khan in the Test bowling ranks, while Stuart Broad produced some beautiful deliveries and helped himself to three wickets. If it wasn’t for iron gloves Kieswetter behind the stumps (and Teflon-handed Eoin Morgan in the outfield) he would have had more. Jimmy Anderson was a little expensive, but also picked up two wickets while Samit Patel managed to get through eight overs without sneaking off for a pie and a pint.
The only downside for England was the aforementioned Craig Kieswetter. Another untidy performance behind the stumps won’t have escaped those who feel that England could do better. Indeed Kieswetter’s main asset is his batting at the top of the order. If Pietersen is going to open for the foreseeable future England may as well pick a keeper that can actually catch.
With the series secured and the pressure off, England might finally look to give some game time to the likes of Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Tim Bresnan. For Pakistan it’s back to the drawing board. Their ODI form prior to this series has been excellent but with the wheels coming off big time, there’s an obvious need to reconsider their approach.
Regardless of who gets selected we’ll be making pithy comments on our Twitter feed throughout the final game and would love for you to join us. Or you could just send stuff to our email. A big thanks to Mrs Julien Kowan for her offer of $3.5m. We’ll have our account details over to you shortly.