Younis ends England hopes
England’s brave fightback proved futile as Pakistan sneaked home by two wickets in a thrilling climax to the third match of the NatWest Series.
The majority of the Rose Bowl crowd may have gone home disappointed at seeing the hosts’ barren sequence in one-day cricket stretched to 10 games, but they can have few complaints with the level of entertainment on show under the floodlights.
Set 272 to win after England produced their best batting performance of the series, Pakistan overcame the loss of two early wickets and a lower-order collapse to triumph with seven balls to spare and take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the five-match series.
Younis Khan’s magnificent century underpinned the tourists’ run-chase, his 167-run partnership with Mohammad Yousuf - a record for the third wicket against England - providing sufficient a cushion to ensure the loss of three wickets for nine runs late on had no bearing on the result.
Younis batted with the elegance for which he is renowned, overcoming a sticky start to unfurl strokes of the highest calibre all around the wicket.
If his 101, made off 109 balls, earned him the man-of-the-match award, Yousuf’s more measured 60 was almost as valuable and, but for an unbeaten 44 - off only 33 deliveries - from the experienced Inzamam-ul-Haq, Pakistan may well have succumbed to an England revival spearheaded by Stuart Broad.
He narrowly missed out on a hat-trick for the second time in his embryonic international career en route to figures of 3-57, while Jon Lewis again impressed with
2-32 from nine metronomic overs.
England, much as they were to do with the ball, battled back well after some telling setbacks during their innings.
Andrew Strauss (50) and Ian Bell (42) led the recovery after Marcus Trescothick succumbed to the first ball of the game, and Jamie Dalrymple and Paul Collingwood’s superb century stand for the fifth wicket helped carry them to 271 for nine, comfortably their highest total of the series.
Dalrymple, who has rarely let England down since making his debut earlier in the summer, struck a typically resourceful 62, while the redoubtable Collingwood fell late on for 61, made at almost a run a ball.
They put on 101, having come together with the hosts wobbling on 125 for four following the loss of Kevin Pietersen and Bell in the space of three overs.
Dalrymple and Collingwood were among the five wickets that fell in the final seven overs, but some lusty blows from Chris Read - allied to shoddy Pakistan fielding - gave the crowd much reason to cheer.
Shoaib Akhtar returned figures of 2-59, taking his wickets tally for the series to nine, and Abdul Razzaq 2-44 from eight overs, but Rana Naved-ul-Hasan - wicketless going into the game - deserved the bowling honours with 4-57.
There was little doubtm however, over the key contributor to Pakistan’s victory.
Younis, clearly fired up, kick-started his innings with three successive fours off Broad, and went on to strike 10 more - as well as a huge six off Pietersen - en route to a 105-ball century that is unlikely to be surpassed in aesthetic terms in the remaining two matches.
His alliance with Yousuf, which spanned 31 overs, was all the more impressive given that they were charged with reviving the tourists from the depths of 29 for two, Shoaib Malik having driven Lewis lazily to backward point and Mohammad Hafeez been run out by Strauss.
Such was Younis’ dazzling strokeplay - he played with equal freedom and elegance off front and back foot - that it was something of a surprise when he lofted a Broad slower ball to long-on.
Yousuf did not last much longer, bowled through the gate by a perfectly flighted delivery from Dalrymple that pitched well outside off stump and hit middle, and Sajid Mahmood had Shahid Afridi caught behind off one that climbed on him.
Broad removed Abdul Razzaq and Kamran Akmal with successive deliveries and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan, though edging the hat-trick ball to third man for four, was bowled having a wild heave at Lewis.
Any nerves troubling captain Inzamam were kept well hidden as he pulled the penultimate ball of the 39th over, sent down by Rikki Clarke, to the mid-wicket fence.