Pakistan clinched a nail-biting thriller against England, defeating them by 21 runs, in their second match of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, at Trent Bridge in Nottingham.
Losing the toss and being put into bat, Pakistan made a mammoth 348-8 against England, setting them a Cricket World Cup record-349 to chase, in the most exciting game of the tournament so far.
This was a completely different Pakistan team to the one who faced the West Indies. Their batting line up played with the intent to take the attack to England. They looked fearful against the West Indies. They looked fearless against England.
The opening partnership set the tone and laid the foundation for Pakistan, who had contributions throughout the order. The first over of the match was sloppy on England’s part and a sign of things to come, and that maybe England were starting to feel the pressure as tournament favourites.
Woakes struggled to find his length and Fakhar Zaman cashed in with two fours. The first was a result of a misfield by captain Eoin Morgan, and the contagion of poor fielding infected the innings.
The Pakistan openers, Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman, dominated the first powerplay, scoring with regularity and nullifying the threat from England’s much-talked-about pace attack. It was a fantastic response after the capitulation to the Windies.
England were so desperate to break up the opening partnership that they wasted their review on an lbw appeal against Imam from the bowling of Jofra Archer, which showed that he had clearly edged it first.
Imam impressed and Fakhar was on fire, with both engaging in attractive strokeplay and aggressive powerhitting.
England turned to middle-over specialist Moeen Ali in search of the breakthrough. And in the 15th over, he managed to get the scalp of Fakhar, who wandered out of his crease, and Buttler duly obliged by whipping off the bails. Fakhar’s premature end left Pakistan 82-1.
Pakistan continued to score runs with regularity, until Moeen struck again six overs later. This time, Imam hit a clean strike wide of long off which looked well placed and destined for a boundary. However, Chris Woakes chased the shot down and leapt with a diving catch to cling onto the ball.
With England desperate for wickets to break up Pakistan’s confidence and rhythm, Jason Roy dropped Man of the Match Mohammed Hafeez when he was on 14, and the Pakistan number 4 made England pay.
Babar was the first Pakistan batsman to reach his fifty and he and Hafeez put together a solid 88-run partnership.
The two experienced batsmen were sailing along and scoring runs at will until Babar (63 off 66 balls) went for a big shot that he did not connect with Woakes took another important catch, and a much needed wicket for England.
It was the third wicket for Moeen, the pick of England’s bowlers, who finished with a commendable 3-50 from 10 overs. With the score at 199-3 off 32.5 overs, Pakistan had wickets in hand to capitalise and build a big score.
Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed came in at number five and silenced the critics with his superb 55 off 44 balls. He and the skilful Hafeez put together an 80-run partnership and taking Pakistan on their way to amounting a huge score.
Mark Wood was finally rewarded for his efforts with the wicket of top-scorer Hafeez, who finished with 84 runs from 64 balls, and was arguably unlucky not to get a century. His creamed a shot, but it was straight down the throat of Woakes, who claimed his third catch. It was the least of what Woods deserved having bowled with such a brilliant variety of pace, cutters and bouncers throughout the innings.
Wood struck again with the wicket of dangerous finisher Asif Ali, whose cut shot off a bouncer was destined for a six had it not gone straight to Bairstow at cover sweeper. By this point though, Pakistan were 311-5 off 46.1 overs, and even though three more wickets fell at the end of the innings, for England the damage had already been done.
Woakes took the last three wickets of Sarfaraz, Wahab Riaz and Shoaib Malik. He finished with 3 for 71 off 8 overs as a reward for his hard work.
It was a tough day at the office for England’s bowlers. Archer did not manage to make the same impact as he has done previously. Adil Rashid was hit to all areas by Pakistan’s batsmen and was expensive. At times Stokes bowled intelligently and restricted runs, but found it difficult to take wickets.
In the final over, star all-rounder Shadab Khan hit 10 off 4 balls, including two emphatic fours. The second was on the last ball of the innings, which was definitely a sign that Pakistan had the momentum at the half-way stage, as they finished on a whopping 348-8.
If England were to be successful, they would have to complete the highest run chase in Cricket World Cup history. However, Trent Bridge has witnessed some of the highest batting totals in recent cricket history.
Sarfaraz was obviously mindful of Bairstow’s dismissal to Imran Tahir on the second ball of the match against South Africa. And perhaps hoping to capitalise on Shadab’s momentum from his final over flurry, shrewdly threw him the ball to open the second act.
Shadab had an immediate impact. After being whacked by Roy for two fours in the first over, he trapped him lbw on the first ball of the third over, as Roy went to sweep a ball that was too full.
This was the second time that early leg spin proved the kryptonite of an England opener. And to add insult to injury, England lost their review which they wasted on this decision. This was not the start that England were looking for, 12-1 from 2.1 overs.
While Pakistan stifled England with spin at one end, at the other they attacked with pace. Mohammed Amir was getting beautiful shape with his left-handed inswingers, and to make matters worse for England, he was also getting the assistance of the breeze. He always looked dangerous when he had the ball.
Pakistan then brought another threatening left-arm pace bowler into the attack in the ninth over, Wahab Riaz, who proved why it was the right decision to recall him for the World Cup.
He bowled a ball back of a length at pace, which glanced the edge of Bairstow’s bat, and into the safe hands of captain Sarfaraz to make it 60-2 from 8.6 overs, as Bairstow left with 32 from 31 balls.
Although the Trent Bridge pitch has been long considered a batsman’s paradise, the ball was beginning to hold up on the pitch, and the spongey response was helping it to grip. With Pakistan’s spin sucking the life out of England, the runs were being scored at a much slower rate.
Morgan struggled for his 9 runs off 18 balls. He had been pushed onto his back foot by short balls, and then seemed to be still stuck on the crease when he was bowled by spinner Hafeez. England were 86-3 from 14.5 overs.
As England were taken out of their usual game by Pakistan, Hafeez struck again. This time Stokes was his victim who knicked the dangerous delivery to keeper Sarfaraz. England looked like they were in real trouble at 118-4 from 21.2 overs.
Although England were four wickets down, Buttler came in with his natural game and was not afraid to take the attack to Pakistan, hitting the ball cleanly and with power. Joe Root alongside him continued to play his shots also, as they brought up their 50-partnership in the 28th over.
A huge moment came in the 29th over, when Pakistan lost their review for an lbw decision against Buttler from Shadab, with the ball judged to be bouncing over. At the end of the 31st over, Buttler reached his fifty, which included five 4s and two 6s.
Root and Buttler continued with their bold and brave stand. Their 130-run partnership was key to getting England back in the game, and get the Barmy Army and the rest of the English crowd behind the team.
When Root reached his century in the 38th over, the crowd roared in approval with lengthened-vowel chants of ‘Roooot!’
In the 39th over however, Root’s fantastic knock of 107 from 104 balls came to an end. Trying to score a single to get off strike, he carved a ball to backward slip, which carried because it was the quicker ball.
This was another twist in the game just as the game seemed to slipping away from Pakistan, and the required rate began to slip to just over 9 runs an over.
Heading into the final 10 overs and the final powerplay, England needed 91 to win. On the second ball of the 41st over, Shadab bowled a beautifully flighted ball, but Sarfaraz dropped a catch and missed a stumping opportunity to get Moeen out.
With the wicket of Root, and with the run rate creeping up, Pakistan look like favourites now. Undeterred Buttler and Moeen kept ticking over, runnings the ones and twos with regularity, knowing that they could cut loose in the last five overs, and with the former closing in on his century.
Buttler’s century came with a trademark slash through the covers, in the air but too hard to be caught.
Just when he looked like he would be the ice man to take England home, the next ball, he toe-ended a ball from Amir to Wahab at short third man.
A fantastic 103 from 76 balls, but England probably felt like they needed him there at the end to finish off the job.
Heading into the last five overs, England were 291-6. At this stage, Pakistan were 294-7, indicating that even though the momentum was with Pakistan, and England needing more than two-a-ball, it was still anybody’s game.
Hasan Ali stepped up and bowled an impressive over for just five runs. He nearly had Moeen caught behind off a short ball which hit the glove. He then used short-pitched slower balls against Moeen which he struggled to hit.
England reached 300 in the 47th over, but they still required 49 runs from 22 balls. Just when they needed a boundary, Woakes edged one fine of third man for four. Amir bowled two wides in a row, in an effort to bowl full outside off.
Moeen then clawed a slower ball bouncer for four, his first boundary of his innings. England gained 15 runs off the over. England now requiring 38 from 18.
Wahab Riaz bowling around the wicket, with a lower arm and assisted by reverse swing, was hit by Woakes to deep cover, but Asif Ali failed to hold on and England gained two. Second ball was a brilliant yorker. The third however was a huge six over long off, making that dropped catch even more painful.
Nevertheless, this game of twist and turns was to take another. Wahab bowled a slower ball bouncer which Moeen did not pick, and all he could do was paddle it into the air. It was an easy catch for Fakhar at point. England were 320-7, requiring 29 from 13.
Next ball, Wahab bowled the same ball that took Bairstow’s wicket to Woakes, who was caught behind. It is clear that Wahab still possesses the skills of a world class death bowler.
The big match player that he is, Wahab just could not be kept out of the action. An Adil Rashid edge in the air, off the bowling of Amir, found its way to his hands at third man.
The enigmatic fast bowler, who finished with figures of 3 for 82, showed just how dangerous he is with his reverse-swinging yorkers from around the wicket, as he closed out the victory for Pakistan.
It was a fantastic performance by Pakistan who have hopefully put some of their demons from the recent months to rest. It proves what many have said, that it does not matter what form they are in, on their day Pakistan can defeat anyone.
Whenever Pakistan play in England they are well-supported and the British Pakistani fans did not disappoint with their colourful fancy dress outfits, sea of green shirts and flags, and their chants.
There is no doubt that the players were energised by their fervent support. And finally, the team gave their fans a performance and a victory that their loyal fans deserve.
Now the Pakistan fans would like to enjoy a tournament that their infectious support deserves.
You can read our preview of the Pakistan team at the 2019 Cricket World Cup here.
All images courtesy of the Official ICC Cricket World Cup Twitter account