ENGLAND captain Paul Collingwood praised his players for putting off-field distractions to one side after a five-wicket Twenty20 triumph against Pakistan in Cardiff.
Matters on the pitch have been hugely overshadowed in the last week by allegations that three Pakistan players fixed aspects of last month’s Test match at Lord’s.
But England managed to ignore the ongoing storm for at least a few hours in their first T20 clash since winning the World Cup in Barbados in May. An unbroken stand of 67 off 43 balls from Eoin Morgan and man-of-the-match Michael Yardy (right) helped England beat a mid-innings wobble and reach their target of 127 with 17 balls left.
“I’m absolutely delighted. It has been a tough week. But the guys focused 100 per cent on their cricket, and we enjoyed our win today,” said Collingwood.
“Our strategies seem to be working in the Twenty20 form of the game. We got our teeth right into it. The bowlers were absolutely fantastic again. We had a little hiccup with the bat, but Morgan and Yardy put together a superb partnership. A lot has gone on this week in terms of strong decisions, and we just want the cricket to do the talking. I’m happy that the guys responded well to what has been a difficult week.”
Spin-bowler Graeme Swann shone with figures of 2-14 as England restricted Pakistan to 126-4, despite Umar Akmal’s 35 off 30 deliveries. Yardy and Tim Bresnan claimed the other wickets.
Opener Steven Davies then enhanced his credentials with a solid 33 while Craig Kieswetter (6), Ravi Bopara (11), Collingwood (4) and Luke Wright (0) all departed cheaply before Morgan and Yardy took charge.
Despite defeat, Pakistan skipper Shahid Afridi welcomed the respite of playing following days of unabated outrage and suspicion. “After what has been going on for a week it’s been very difficult,” Afridi said. “But this is my job and the coach’s job, to lift the morale and keep the guys in high spirits.”