Makeshift England show depth by thrashing Pakistan in first ODI

When Australia A made the final of the World Series Cup in 1994-95, nudging out England and Zimbabwe in the group stage before finishing runners-up to their first XI, one of the local newspapers asked whether they were the second-best team on the planet.

It would be premature to suggest the same about England’s reserves. But the way they dispensed with Pakistan in the first one-day international here in Cardiff, rolling the tourists for 141 in 35.2 overs before knocking off the runs with 169 balls to spare, confirmed the widely held belief that, in the white-ball form at least, the depth in English cricket is hugely impressive.

This was a makeshift side shorn of 16 players due to a Covid-19 outbreak after the 2-0 win over Sri Lanka and missing at least four more through injury before that. Ben Stokes’s return from finger surgery was expedited in response to the crisis and he was asked to captain in place of Eoin Morgan, while Chris Silverwood, the head coach, abandoned a family holiday.

Yet between them they led the least experienced England side since 1985 by way of ODI caps (135) to a crushing nine-wicket win and a 1-0 series lead before Saturday’s second instalment in front of a capacity crowd at Lord’s.

Saqib Mahmood was the star man, his four for 42 including two wickets from the first three balls of the innings, while Dawid Malan (68 not out from 69 balls) and Zak Crawley (58no from 50) cruised to the target in a blitz of 15 fours.

“It was a very clinical performance,” said Stokes, who accounted for 98 of England’s caps before the match. “We didn’t get put under pressure, but I have no doubt we will at some point. Not every game of cricket goes as smoothly as it did today.”

After clearing PCR tests and having one training session together, Stokes had asked his players to play with a smile on their faces and embrace the opportunity. Once five new caps were presented before a toss he won – Phil Salt, Crawley, Lewis Gregory, Brydon Carse and John Simpson the recipients – Mahmood met this brief.

The 24-year-old has found a new level of late and, along with his work at Lancashire, time in the Pakistan Super League appears to have done wonders. He began with blistering intensity here, trapping Imam-ul-haq lbw first ball on review – a feather in the cap for Simpson behind the stumps – and nicking off the world’s best, Babar Azam, for a W0W start to proceedings.

With Somerset’s Gregory sharing the new ball and producing a beauty to give Simpson his first international dismissal at the age of 32, Mohammed Rizwan edging behind, and Mahmood then pinning the left-handed debutant Saud Shakeel lbw, England had struck four times in the power-play for the third successive match, despite being the first full member side to make 11 changes.

From 26 for four in the seventh over Pakistan were in desperate need of a fightback but despite Fakhar Zaman and Sohaib Maqsood putting on 53, including one outrageous six over extra cover off Carse from the latter, all too often they were architects of their own downfall. Just one intra-squad warm-up may explain some of the rustiness, but a number of the dismissals were gifted.

Fakhar, a major part of their 2017 Champions Trophy win, was among the culpable, calling for a daft single that ended with Maqsood run out by James Vince for 19, before chopping a wide delivery from Matt Parkinson to backward point on 47.

The leg-spinner also profited from a hack by Hasan Ali, while his county teammate, Mahmood, later picked up Faheem Ashraf.

Though Mahmood was the standout, his chesty right-arm slingshots perhaps invoking memories of Waqar Younis for the Glamorgan faithful and the Pakistan fans among the capped 3,000-strong crowd, Carse also caught the eye, the Durham right-armer touching 91 mph during his seven overs.

The speed gun did not quite support claims Craig Overton has found an extra yard of pace in the past 18 months but he was similarly tidy and mopped up the final two wickets. Stokes, fit to bowl, sent down six deliveries.

The run chase was a breeze. Salt’s return to the country of his birth was ended by Shaheen Shah Afridi on seven, throwing the kitchen sink at one only to edge to slip, but Malan and Crawley made merry thereafter. Malan was all back-foot style on his return from a break for personal reasons while Crawley drove with a confidence that was lacking during his recent Test appearances.

The pair could yet be rivals for the No 3 spot come the Test series against India given the side’s top-order struggles, but in this second, arguably third-string one-day team, they and Mahmood sum up the queue of talent that has formed.


Ali Martin at Sophia Gardens

The GuardianTramp

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