Many questioned when England fielded a B team as some of the English team members tested positive for Covid. The series went ahead as scheduled, and Ben Stokes was made the captain. As many as five debutants featured in the series thus far, and all have done well to ensure they have the upper hand in the series. England won the 1st ODI comfortably and 2nd ODI from hindsight, it may look that they won it comfortably, but it wasn’t the case.
England lost their in-form opener, Dawid Malan, early and lost Jack Crawley on duck as well. Then came Vince, who, along with Phil Salt, had a good partnership, and at one stage, it looked like England will have a score in access of 300. Things changed after Hasan Ali took three scalps and reduced England to 160 for 7. England was in a spot of bother, but Lewis Gregory and Craig Overton had a convenient partnership. At one stage again, it looked like they are on course to get something in the range of 270. Haris Rauf was introduced, and he provided the much-needed breakthrough, and England was eventually reduced to 247.
On a pitch that had odd bounce and overcast conditions, England was not out of the game. The odds were in favor of Pakistan, but England removed Imam Ul Haq in the second over. Before Babar Azam could take the game away, England got hold of him. Fakar Zaman played a horrible knock by scoring 10 runs off 45 balls. Shoaib Maqsood got a few over the ropes but was eventually undone by Craig Overton’s short ball. Saud Shakeel stood firm at one end and again stitched a partnership with Shadab Khan, who lost his wicket after scoring 21.
Faheem Ashraf also came and gone, and the match was almost done by then. Hasan Ali had other ideas as he took 22 off an over from Parkinson but got out the next over. After eight down and Pakistan needing close to 100, the match was virtually over. Pakistan did well to reach the score of 195, but that only reduced the margin of victory.
Along with the match, Pakistan also lost the series. Ben Stokes was highly praised for his aggressive captaincy as he let Saqib Mahmood bowl a spell of 6 overs upfront. All his pacers did a great job, and he didn’t have to come on to bowl. Pakistan has shown their weakness against the seaming deliveries. It would be tough for them to regroup and come again fresh on Tuesday’s encounter.
Earlier after the series was done, the final match of a 3 or 5 matches bilateral series used to be a dead rubber. Things have changed now with World Championship points on the line. One doesn’t get direct qualification for the world cup. Still, the top 8 teams with the highest championship points are awarded a direct entry. So we may see the likes of Sri Lanka playing the qualifiers to get entry at the 2023 ICC Cricket World Cup.
More than pride, there are also championship points at stake, and Pakistan will have to have a different approach to have any chance of winning. T20Is and Pakistan will follow ODIs will have to find the best 11 before it gets too late. It will be a day-night game on Tuesday, and the conditions will again be seaming. Their players will have to sweat it out in the nets and figure out the changes they need to make in their stance.