Eoin Morgan, a player fast emerging as the "Mr Reliable" of England's Twenty20 squad, and Michael Yardy, who could also lay claim to the same tag, made the most of a few buttery fingers in the Pakistan side to carry the World Twenty20 champions to a comfortable five-wicket win in Cardiff last night.
Morgan and Yardy, both dropped on individual scores of 13, added 67 runs from 43 balls to dig England out of a troublesome 62 for five as they chased a modest total of 127. They eventually finished with 17 balls to spare, winning their sixth T20 international on the trot. This was England's first match in the shortest form of the game since their World Twenty20 triumph in May and Paul Collingwood, the T20 captain, was delighted to resume on a winning note.
"That was another great performance," said Collingwood, who hands over the England captaincy to Andrew Strauss in the Tests and one-day internationals. "At the moment we got a strategy that seems to be working. "The bowling has been absolutely fantastic, to keep Pakistan down to a total like that. It was always going to be quite gettable. "We had a little bit of a hiccup there, losing a few early wickets, but Morgs [Morgan] again and Yards [Yardy] were outstanding at the end.
"I really enjoy this [the captaincy]. It's great to just come in for a couple of games and do the captaincy, and obviously hand it straight back over to Straussy. It was actually great to get the boys together. "It is the first T20 since the World Cup, so it's great to get the boys back in the dressing room, have a few smiles in there and get stuck into the cricket in the middle." The Pakistan dressing room must have been a contrast to England's with the spot-fixing controversy surrounding the team. But the 2009 World Twenty20 champions did well to have England hobbling at five down after 10 overs.
A sixth wicket was there for the taking when Morgan reverse-swept Shahid Afridi to Shoaib Akhtar at short third-man, but the pace bowler, to the horror of his team-mates, dropped a sitter. The score was 77 then and England still needed 50 more to win from the same number of balls. Thirteen of those runs came from the next over, the first by Saeed Ajmal, and the game had swung England's way. Yardy was missed behind the stumps by Kamran Akmal in that over, though it was a difficult chance.
"I mention these things all the time," said Afridi, the Pakistan captain, about the dropped catches. "We are missing a lot of opportunities in every game and we should realise this. To win in any type of cricket, you have to be good in the field." It was a sad finish to the game for Akhtar, who had made a fiery start with the wickets of Craig Kieswetter and Ravi Bopara in his first spell of three overs, where he bowled consistently at 93miles an hour.
"Shoaib started really well," Afridi said. "He is doing well for the last couple of months and he will be fine in a few days. "I think if myself and Saeed Ajmal had bowled well, the game could have changed. But we - me and Ajmal - did not bowl all that well." Missing their two frontline bowlers, Mohammed Asif and Mohammad Aamer through suspension over the spot-fixing allegations, Pakistan needed a bit more on the board than the 126 for four they eventually got .
"I thought getting 145 on the board would have been great because the wicket was turning a fair bit and it was slow as well," Afridi said. "The way Graeme Swann [two for 14] and Yardy [one for 21] bowled, they did really well and at the right time. "We are playing on the same track [tomorrow] and it will play in the same way. So around 140-150 will be a good total." * Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi
Pakistan 126 for 4 England 129 for 5 Pakistan K Akmal c Yardy b Bresnan 6 S Hasan st Davies b Swann 21 Yousuf c Morgan b Swann 26 Alam c & b Yardy 20 U Akmal not out 35 Afridi not out 16 Extras 1lb, 1w 2 Total (4 wickets, 20 overs) 126 Fall of wickets: 1-13; 2-50; 3-56; 4-88; Bowling: Sidebottom 4-0-32-0; Bresnan 3-0-18-1; Broad 4-0-32-0; Swann 4-0-14-2; Yardy 4-0-21-1; Collingwood 1-0-8-0; England Kieswetter c K Akmal b Akhtar 6 Davies c Riaz b Gul 33 Bopara c Yousuf b Akhtar 11 Collingwood b Afridi 4 Morgan not out 38 Wright b Afridi 0 Yardy not out 35 Extras 1lb, 1w 2 Total (5 wickets, 17.1 overs) 129 Fall of wickets: 1-9; 2-42; 3-55; 4-57; 5-62; Bowling: Razzaq 2-0-20-0; Akhtar 4-1-23-2; Riaz 2-0-27-2; Afridi 4-027-2; Gul 2.1-0-17-1; Ajmal 3-0-30-0; England won by 5 wickets.