Davies dazzles in England win
A change in format failed to buck the trend of England dominance as the opening match of the NatWest Series followed a predictable pattern.
England triumphed by 24 runs at the Emirates Durham ICG, defending a total of 274 for six in 41 overs with something approaching ease as Pakistan - demonstrating the lack of confidence that has been a hallmark of their dreadful summer - relied on a few lusty late blows to reach 250 for nine.
It barely seems to matter in which form of the game these sides meet. England won the Test series 3-1, both Twenty20s and, on the evidence of a largely one-sided encounter today, appear well set to wrap up this five-match one-day series.
Although Pakistan can take heart from a performance much improved from the recent T20 humblings, England’s superiority was rarely challenged, particularly when Steven Davies - in only his second one-day international - was blazing his way to 87 off 67 balls.
Jonathan Trott’s more measured 69 - his fourth ODI half-century in a row - contrasted sharply with Davies’ eye-catching strokeplay, but both contributions were crucial to England amassing an imposing total on an admittedly reliable surface.
Andrew Strauss, Davies’ partner in a stand of 78 for the first wicket which suggests England have the makings of a new successful opening alliance, played his part with 41, and Ravi Bopara helped negate the loss of three wickets in the last eight overs by hitting an unbeaten 35 off 27 deliveries.
The Akmals, Kamran and Umar, made 53 and 43 respectively in Pakistan’s stuttering pursuit, but captain Shahid Afridi’s 19 off 25 balls, which featured more wild swishes than genuine shots, was symptomatic of a skittish team performance and, indeed, tour.
Given a chance to impress after Craig Kieswetter was overlooked for one-day duty, Davies did so in style, marrying crisp drives and cuts with considerable daring against a Pakistan attack still struggling to cope with the absence of the suspended Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif.
Unafraid to hit over the top, adept at piercing the field and never less than aggressive in his running, 24-year-old Davies served a timely reminder of his precocious talent and as good as booked himself a top-order berth for the remainder of the international summer - and possibly beyond.
Saeed Ajmal was Pakistan’s most potent bowler - he finished with 4-58 from nine overs - but Shoaib Akhtar was unfortunate not to gain any tangible reward for a fine opening spell en route to figures of 8-1-28-0.
Shoaib was the only seamer to emerge with any credit when play finally got under way at 12.30pm, two and a quarter hours late following rain overnight and this morning.
He conceded just nine runs from his first five overs - and beat the bat on numerous occasions - but 7ft debutant left-seamer Mohammad Irfan was forced out of the attack after one chastening over that cost 15, and Umar Gul leaked 17 runs in his second. Irfan later left the field with what looked like cramp.
Strauss tucked into a diet of short deliveries, cutting and pulling with disdain, and advanced down the pitch to drill Ajmal into the stand at long-on moments after Afridi spilled a sharp chance at short extra-cover to reprieve Davies on 21.
That aside, Davies batted with controlled freedom despite Strauss, on one knee as he eyed the leg side, being bowled leg stump by Ajmal.
A 37-ball half-century for Davies - his first at international level - was greeted with a four behind square at Gul’s expense, with Trott content to play the supporting role during a second-wicket stand of 65 that was broken only when Davies, making room to cut Ajmal three balls after drinks, edged behind.
Paul Collingwood marked the start of the batting powerplay by heaving Gul over deep midwicket, only to perish when he swung Ajmal to Fawad Alam at deep backward square-leg.
Eoin Morgan fell to Afridi in almost identical fashion to Davies, and Trott’s attempt to add urgency after bringing up his fifty off 64 balls saw him bowled via a bottom edge as he tried to sweep Ajmal.
Tim Bresnan was run out by Umar Akmal’s direct hit from wide long-on in the penultimate over, but Bopara hoisted Ajmal and Gul for mighty leg-side sixes either side of seeing the otherwise excellent Kamran spill a catch behind the stumps.
Pakistan’s reply began brightly as Mohammad Hafeez helped Kamran put on 62 at a shade under five an over.
As so often is the case, though, Graeme Swann’s introduction into the attack reaped immediate dividends, the off-spinner having Hafeez taken by Bresnan, diving forward at deep square-leg.
Mohammad Yousuf was lbw playing across the line to Michael Yardy, and Kamran, who was dropped on 33 and 34 by Strauss and Trott respectively, finally perished for an entertaining 53 when he drilled Swann to Stuart Broad at long-off.
The required rate had climbed to almost nine an over by the time Fawad, who batted with much greater aplomb than he managed in either of the Twenty20s, charged Bresnan, miscued to mid-on and departed for 39.
Asad Shafiq, another youngster playing only his second game at this level, kept Pakistan’s rapidly dwindling hopes just about alive courtesy of four successive fours off Bresnan, but by that time Umar had succeeded only in scooping Broad to Davies behind the stumps.
It was the first of five wickets to fall in 6.3 overs as England ensured their good work with the bat did not go to waste.
Shafiq, sweeping, was bowled by Yardy’s quicker ball; Afridi swiped Anderson to cover; Shoaib swung and missed at a full delivery from Bresnan; and Gul pulled an Anderson slower ball to deep midwicket.