Gul swings it Pakistan's way
Umar Gul produced a devastating display of swing bowling under the Brit Insurance Oval floodlights to keep Pakistan in the NatWest Series.
Gul, who had struggled as the tourists lost the first two matches, claimed one-day international-best figures of 6-42 in 10 overs.
The 26-year-old curtailed Andrew Strauss and Eoin Morgan’s half-centuries to script a 23-run victory that halved England's series lead with two games to play.
Pakistan will be hoping that the Oval will not host their only win, as it did in the npower Test series, when they play at Lord’s on Monday and the Rose Bowl on Wednesday.
As in the Oval Test, the ODI witnessed a thrilling finale - in which England appeared on course to overhaul Pakistan’s 241.
However, Gul struck crucial and regular blows before the fit-again Abdul Razzaq, recalled in place of giant seamer Mohammad Irfan, bowled James Anderson to complete the triumph.
Luke Wright, playing instead of Paul Collingwood who was suffering from a virus, was left unbeaten on 48 from 66 balls, having added 98 with Morgan in an England ODI record stand for the sixth wicket versus Pakistan.
Despite choosing to bat first on a traditionally true surface, Pakistan earlier slipped to 31 for three as Anderson broke through twice in the opening power play.
Fawad Alam, who top-scored with a pedestrian 64, shared half-century stands with Asad Shafiq and Shahid Afridi, but the tourists frittered away wickets.
Anderson was the hosts’ outstanding bowler with 3-26 from 10 overs. Tim Bresnan also struck thrice, although he proved more expensive.
They landed early blows with contrasting dismissals; Anderson had Mohammad Hafeez caught behind with a beauty, but Kamran Akmal was unfortunate to perish to Bresnan when a ball heading down leg deflected off the bottom of his thigh pad and into leg stump.
Shafiq and Mohammad Yousuf temporarily stopped the rot, but the latter was trapped in front for 16 by an Anderson delivery that nipped back at him, encouraging England to immediately enforce the bowling power play.
Shafiq led the resistance but rode his luck when he narrowly avoided cover on 28 with a lofted driven-four off Wright. He dominated a half-century alliance with Alam, which came off 67 balls.
However, Shafiq gifted England his wicket on 40 when he lofted Graeme Swann to long-on where Morgan showed safe hands running to his right.
Umar Akmal initially batted within himself, but also gave it away by top-edging a Bresnan bouncer on 14 to deep square-leg where Swann held a simple catch.
Afridi took the fight to England, typified by a straight six off Swann, during a swift fifty partnership with Alam that occupied just 44 deliveries.
It had reached 60 when Alam chipped Michael Yardy to Strauss in the off-side ring from his 86th delivery, during which he only found the rope three times.
Afridi followed soon after for 34 from 29 balls, bizarrely run out when Swann’s throw from deep square ricocheted off his bat and onto the non-striker’s stumps as the Pakistan skipper dawdled going for a second.
Razzaq, the last of the tourists’ recognised hitters, flayed Stuart Broad’s slow bouncer for a maximum, but Pakistan left the batting power play as late as possible.
They took 11 off Bresnan in its first over only for Razzaq to depart for 31 from 24 balls to Broad in the next, picking out Anderson at deep midwicket.
Ravi Bopara spilled Umar Gul low at point on 13, but it allowed a single that exposed Saeed Ajmal, whom Anderson trapped in front next ball.
Bresnan cleaned up Gul, attempting an ill-advised sweep, to close the innings with two balls unused.
Steven Davies cut and drove a fiery Shoaib Akhtar for consecutive fours in the first over of the reply, and Strauss also found his stride with two boundaries in another Shoaib over.
Razzaq broke through Davies’ defence, bowling the left-hander for 18 between bat and pad, and Shoaib emphatically yorked Jonathan Trott.
Pakistan immediately took the bowling power play and it yielded Bopara’s wicket, the right-hander edging Ajmal behind via an expansive drive.
With a regulation field, the improving Gul forced Strauss to play on for 57 from 54 balls and pinned Yardy, dropped by the diving Kamran on nought, next over.
Kamran’s spill clearly had him in pain and he later handed the gloves to his younger brother before leaving the field.
Between times and after, Morgan played a typical array of strokes to reach 50 from 58 balls.
Wright survived Ajmal’s stumping appeal on 27, which square-leg umpire Billy Doctrove curiously chose not to refer although television replays suggested was out.
Wright drove Razzaq for a straight four to herald England’s 200, but next ball Morgan lofted Gul to substitute Wahab Riaz at deep square-leg to perish for 61 from 74 deliveries.
Later in the over Gul sent Bresnan’s off stump cartwheeling, he castled Broad in the next and Swann chipped the seamer’s final delivery to Afridi at cover-point.
The home side left the batting power play as late as possible, but Anderson fell from only its fourth ball as England lost their last five wickets for 17 runs.