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Younis Khan, a batting mainstay for Pakistan, was one of Steve Finn's wickets.
Younis Khan, a batting mainstay for Pakistan, was one of Steve Finn's wickets.

England break their duck over Pakistan in style in the UAE

Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara lay the foundation while Steve Finn triggers a collapse. Sports round-up audio

ABU DHABI // Few people would have seen this coming, except perhaps for those talented soothsayers who can predict that a promising teenaged fast-bowler will deliver a no ball on the third ball of his opening over.

Accepted wisdom has always dictated that England can have their Test cricket, but the one-day game is Pakistan's domain.

Especially in the UAE.

Before last night, Pakistan had won 90 of the 136 one-day internationals they have played in the Emirates. Against England, their record was played three, won three - or all six, if you include Tests - in matches in this country.

England never hinted they were about to break their duck.

They had lost five successive one-day internationals, and had only won twice in their past 11 attempts in Asia.

Yet here we find Pakistan with a Test series clean sweep safely stowed in their kit bag - but on the end of a monstrous hammering in the first limited-overs match in Abu Dhabi.

England were widely criticised for the lack of preparation ahead of their 3-0 Test series defeat here, but clearly they had it mapped out all along. They played two first-class matches, then three Tests, just so they would be ready in time for this series of one-day internationals.

Tellingly, the 130-run victory was secured thanks to sizeable contributions from players who were unscarred by the Test matches.

Alastair Cook's century clearly formed the bedrock, but Ravi Bopara, who made 50, Samit Patel, with three wickets, and the outstanding fast-bowler Steven Finn each proved a point.

"It has been a hard tour, and frustrating that we haven't played up to our potential," Cook said. "It is great to get our first win."

When England arrived in the UAE at the start of January, Finn said he could afford to bide his time before being restored to the starting XI, on account of the fact he is "still a kid" in cricket terms.

For the most part, England's bowlers functioned well in a losing cause during the Test series, but Finn's claims to a permanent place in the side are starting to become irrefutable.

He was the star turn on the doomed limited-overs tour of India at the end of 2011. Despite being the drinks-carrier-in-chief for most of the time since, he has lost little of his venom on this evidence. His strong form in the opening match of this series went to show there is more than one way to win a match in the UAE.

While Pakistan's successes here have perennially been founded on a battery of slow bowlers, England's strength lies with their pace attack.

Led by Finn, the away side proved the quicks can be match-winners, too, especially when the slow pitches of the Emirates start to become slicker under lights.

"It shows the strength of our bowling at the moment that he can't get in the Test team at the moment," Cook said of Finn.

At least some things remain the same.

His feats with the ball may not have proved as decisive as they were during the Tests, but Saeed Ajmal still continued to reap a rich harvest from England's batting line-up.

Pakistan's man of the Test series helped himself to another five wickets here, his best return in a one-day international.

However, the target of 260 proved way beyond the host team after Finn's early incisions.

"Our batting is a matter of concern for us," Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan's captain, said. "[England's tally of] 260 was a big score but we should have been able to chase it."

Younis Khan, one of Pakistan's leading batsmen in the Tests series: "England are a top team and they were always going to bounce back."

 

pradley@thenational.ae

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