England win by 4 wickets
Having lost every game in the format they are actually good at, nobody gave England much chance of winning one game in this series. To have won them all and exerted such dominance over Pakistan is an outstanding achievement. Despite the changes to their bowling attack the tourists still kept the target down to a below-par 237 – bowling Pakistan out for the fourth game in succession in the process – thanks to impressive performances from Danny Briggs, on debut, and Jade Dernbach late in the innings. In reply it was the Kevin Pietersen show again, as he paced his second century in four days superbly to see his team home. It’s just a shame his irresponsible side reared its ugly head again with two runs required – is it time for the unreliable KP to go?
After the high of whitewashing England in the Test series, this thumping must feel like a bit of a low blow to Pakistan. In truth, there were few moments across all four games where they were in command, and their plans became increasingly muddled with each passing defeat. A top six constantly changing both its personnel and the order they bat in is not a recipe for success; reflected by the fact Asad Shafiq’s 65 in this game was their highest score of the series. Of course, some of their batting woes are testament to how well England bowled, but by consistently giving different players different roles to play they set themselves at a huge disadvantage from the start.
The bowlers suffered from a similar problem; having been so successful with a phalanx of spinners earlier in the tour, it took them until the final game to ditch the second seamer (who, combined, ended up with figures of 22.2-2-136-2 from three games) and, in a shocking development, got closer to England than they had all series. They also struggled to contain their opponents without men surrounding the bat, as they had throughout every Test. Consequently they couldn’t exert the same pressure as before and let their opponents dictate the game, something which they never allowed to happen in the longer form.
In a neat summation of England’s problem with ODI cricket since the dawn of time; much of the English reaction to this win has been to declare how annoyed everyone is that they couldn’t play like this in ‘the games that mattered’. It’s maybe time for them to embrace this newfangled format and get with the 1980’s. The tourists were excellent throughout and, having gone into this tour with giant question marks hovering over about half the team with axe in hand, now find themselves having some tough decisions to make when the West Indies arrive in the summer. Only Eoin Morgan failed to perform at all, again, while there is probably an argument to be made against Jimmy Anderson in some conditions, but he must surely play in England.
Steven Finn, their one bright spark in India, continued to enhance his reputation with another superb tour, to such an extent that he is banging on the door of the Test side despite having been overlooked in favour of Chris Tremlett, Tim Bresnan and Monty Panesar since Perth. The fact he missed out on the player of the series award is only a reflection on how relentlessly Captain Cook scored – his one day stats are becoming seriously impressive; since taking over the captaincy he has 923 runs @ 54.29, compared to 858 @ 33 prior to the World Cup. With an opening partnership firing, a middle order performing well, and a bowling attack on top form, it’s almost as if England’s team isn’t quite as bad as all the top media outlets were making out after India. Or, as almost all the top media outlets were making out after India…
Now that all the relaxed stuff is out of the way, it’s time to knuckle down and prepare for the serious stuff. Three T20 internationals between Thursday and Monday complete this crazy tour, before England head to Sri Lanka for two Tests, complete with absolutely no other international games. Always a relief to see such excellent scheduling. Pakistan have Asia Cup commitments in March, where they must fancy their chances despite this chastening defeat. There have been rumours over the past day or two that Shahid Afridi could re-re-re-take over the captaincy for those matches, but such a move seems unlikely. One change which will take place is Dav Whatmore coming in as coach, a move no one can really understand. In some respects this series works in his favour, as replacing Mohsin Khan after another in a long line of successes would have been even more of a challenge. Mohsin’s last act in charge will be to oversee the upcoming T20’s. We’ll be covering them with our usual
guff gusto on Twitter @51AllOut, while you can also get involved via our email address firstname.lastname@example.org