A HUGELY tainted one-day international series will be decided at the Rose Bowl tomorrow after Pakistan put off-field rows to one side to draw level with England.
In a match that was in severe danger of being called off due to an escalating controversy surrounding comments made by Pakistan Cricket Board chairman Ijaz Butt, the tourists claimed a deserved 38-run victory at Lord’s last night.
Abdul Razzaq (44) and Mohammad Hafeez (64) did the damage with the bat as Pakistan, having won an all-important toss, racked up 265-7. Shoaib Akhtar (3-59) and Umar Gul (4-32) then terrorised England with the ball as the hosts were dismissed with 23 deliveries to spare.
“It was a tough day,” said England captain Andrew Strauss. “There was a lot of raw
emotion around and it took us a while to get into the game. It was played in a very good
spirit and, regardless of what’s gone on, we want to win this series and we’ll be fully motivated to do so.”
The result means the five-match series stands level at 2-2 and at least guarantees that the on-field action retains a touch more significance while other rows rage on.
Butt’s incendiary comments, and England’s predictably angry reaction, aside, there were
further fireworks in the build-up to yesterday’s contest when Jonathan Trott, the Warwickshire batsman, was involved in a confrontation in the nets with Wahab Riaz.
Once the action began, however, Pakistan seemed better able to forget tensions and cut loose. Hafeez top-scored before becoming one of Graeme Swann’s four victims, but it was Razzaq who stole the show. In an explosive 20-ball cameo, he blasted three fours and a six in the penultimate over and then five consecutive fours in the final five balls.
Strauss started the reply well enough with a resolute 68, but as night fell, the Pakistani bowlers’ skill at achieving movement told, and the hosts fell from 113-0 to 149-4. The last five wickets tumbled in six overs to Shoaib and Gul.
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi said: “England played well at the beginning, but I knew my spinners were capable of controlling the situation.”