Pakistan Bounce Above Root, Buttler Century, Win by 14 Runs
Very few teams have made comebacks better than Pakistan. Put into bat by England they posted the highest total of the World Cup 348 for 8 with Mohammad Hafeez top scoring with 84 off 62 balls. In reply Joe Root’s 107 and Jose Buttler’s 103 went in vain as England lost by 14 runs. Commenting on Pakistan’s comeback Harsha Bhogle quoted “With Pakistan, yesterday has no connection to today, today none tomorrow.”
Pakistan was required to play positive game of cricket after their humiliating loss at the hands of West Indies in the previous match. It was evident by the way the openers lay the platform, with less than run a ball, even though the pitch was more batting friendly. Mark Wood and Jofra Archer bowled in tandem at pace exceeding 145km/h. Archer was troubling the batsmen more as his pace was disguised by his short run up. Even though the batsmen were troubled by the pace attack, they managed few boundaries to keep the run rate ticking. England got the breakthrough in the 15th over when Moeen Ali dismissed Fakar Zaman for 36 off 40 balls.
Babar Azam showed some intent from the beginning and took few chances to reach his half century in the 28th over. Mohammed Hafeez forged some good partnership with Babar and Sarfaraz Khan, scoring at a strike rate of 135. When Hafeez was batting with Sarfaraz, they were looking good to post a total near 400. When Mark Wood priced out Hafeez in the 43rd over their scoring rate reduced considerably. The much talked about Asif Ali, had a good chance of showing his big hitting skills with 7 more over to go. He did hit one massive six off Archer in the 44th over, waited for the slower ball and deposited it over deep point. Whenever it seemed like a big partnership was building, Pakistan kept on loosing wickets at a regular interval. Even though they scored less than what they should have, 348 was still a good total to defend.
Employing Spin against England openers seems to be the mantra in this World Cup. In the last match it was Johny Bairstow who gave his wicket to spin early and today it was Jason Roy adjudged LBW to Shadab Khan for 8. Bairstow was looking good for another big score but, out of the blue Wahab Riaz produces a peach of a delivery that has bounce and movement of the pitch. Bairstow couldn’t control the shot and ended up nicking it to the keeper for a stroke filled 32 of 31 balls. Morgan and Stokes couldn’t handle Pakistani Spinners and departed very soon.
Root and Buttler came to England’s rescue with a partnership of 130. Root was dropped on 9 by Babar Azam at 2nd slip off Mohammed Amir. He played the role of an anchor and made Pakistan pay with a fine knock of 107 off 104. Buttler went hard at Pakistani bowlers reaching his half century with a 6 from just 34 balls. He reached his hundred with a thumping boundary to mid off but lost his wicket the very next ball to Amir in the 45th over.
England required 61 of 33 balls when Buttler fell and Moeen and Woakes were at the crease. In a T20 game it is a gettable target. Considering that Moeen is capable of scoring in these kinds of situations, how many times has he done that is a different question? Woakes on the other hand is a very handy lower order batsman, who scores at some unexpected times. Both of them could not get going and perished on consecutive balls to fiery Wahab Riaz in the 48th over. This was Pakistan’s first victory after 11 consecutive losses in completed ODIs. Interestingly this was England’s first loss in a home game chasing since 2015.