An impressive performance from England’s bowlers and a young Yorkshireman; a bit of a shocker from the Pakistani batsmen.
Pakistan bowled fairly well; they pegged England back with three wickets in three overs after Pietersen had got off to a flying start. Saeed Ajmal was the pick of the bowlers with 1-20, but Aizaz Cheema, Umar Gul and Mohammad Hafeez all bowled good overs. Surprisingly it was Shahid Afridi who was too expensive, going at over nine runs an over.
In the second innings however, the batsmen performed poorly. The top order all went cheaply; in making six from twelve balls (one six, eleven dot balls) Awais Zia played one of the strangest innings we’ve seen for a long time. His method of swinging the bat down the same line was like a malfunctioning version of stick cricket. Misbah-ul-Haq had one of his days where he just couldn’t get the ball off the square, meaning that the lower order were faced with an almighty challenge. Hammad Azam at last contributed to the series; his 21 from 15 balls proof that he is too low in the order. Also Afridi and Gul both scored quickly- the former in particular when he hit Patel for 15 from 4 balls – but the England bowlers were too disciplined to allow Pakistan the chance to really challenge for the match.
This was a pretty clinical performance, despite a minor panic when Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan quickly followed Kevin Pietersen back to the pavilion. Nonetheless, it was essentially due to one person that they posted a score higher than most onlookers were predicting (ourselves included, but we were distracted by Old Jake alcoholic ginger beer and our Welsh rugby-watching neighbours making hell’s own hullaballoo). Jonny Bairstow played a fine innings, with a variety of shots but in particular hitting strongly between cover and mid-wicket. His 60* from 46 balls was perfect for the situation where the lower order were losing their wickets regularly.
Although Bairstow was man of the match, the team effort in the Pakistani innings was exceptional. The bowlers had an attitude that had been absent in the first match (although this did occasionally boil over into petulance a couple of times) and from the moment Zia was almost run out after the first ball of the innings, England were on top. Only Patel, in taking the force of Afridi’s blow, had bad figures; the rest of the bunch all were admirably economical. In addition, the fielding was marvellous, with a handful of smart catches taken by the likes of Dernbach, Morgan and the otherwise luckless Jos Buttler.
We’d mocked the fact that this series is three matches long before it started, but because each team have won a game, the third match should be interesting and entertaining. The toss will be an important factor, but ultimately if a batsman from either side can make a Bairstow-esque score then their side should win.