Clinical England cruise through
England secured their passage through to the Super Eights stage of the ICC World Twenty20 courtesy of an emphatic 48-run victory over Pakistan at The Oval.
Needing to win to avoid early elimination from the tournament, England made light of the pressure to bat with considerably more purpose than they managed during the shock defeat to Holland on Friday.
They defended a challenging total of 185 for five with some comfort thanks a disciplined display with the ball and in the field, shackling Pakistan’s power hitters on a pitch which offered the seamers and spinners alike noticeable assistance throughout.
The result left England level on points with Holland at the top of Group B, safe in the knowledge that this crushing victory means it is nigh on impossible for them not to progress regardless of how Pakistan fare against Holland at Lord’s on Tuesday.
As well as England bowled - Stuart Broad claimed two wickets in as many balls en route to figures of 3-17 to help banish the memory of his last-over pain at Lord’s, while Adil Rashid’s four overs cost just 24 - the foundations for this success were laid by Kevin Pietersen.
Absent from the defeat at Lord’s with an Achilles injury, Pietersen marked his return to the side with a thrilling 58 off 38 balls, a score challenged only by Pakistan captain Younus Khan, who made an unbeaten 46.
Pietersen was ably assisted by some shoddy Pakistan fielding - they spilled four catches during a display that bordered on amateurish - as well as Owais Shah, who hit a rather more measured 33. Luke Wright had supplied the early impetus with a typically muscular 34 off just 16 deliveries.
Although Ravi Bopara slashed the third ball of the innings wide of third man for four, he drove Mohammad Aamer’s second delivery to backward point, where Shoaib Malik took a fine catch moving to his left.
Wright overcame a steady start to hit four, six and four in succession off Aamer’s next over, which cost 15, and Yasir Arafat came in for similar treatment during an over which yielded 21.
Pietersen gave a couple of full tosses short shrift as he began to free his arms, but saw Wright bowled attempting to drive a full-length delivery from Umar Gul to leave England 62 for two in the sixth over.
Shah accompanied Pietersen in a stand of 66 for the third wicket which gathered momentum after spinners Shahid Afridi and Saaed Ajmal applied the brakes somewhat.
Pietersen saw a fierce return drive put down by Ajmal when he had scored 30, and capitalised to sweep Afridi over square-leg for six before drilling Aamer thrillingly over the extra-cover boundary.
Shah favoured the leg side in his 32-ball innings, which contained a mighty blow over deep midwicket - also at Aamer’s expense - but a third-wicket stand of 66 in eight overs came to an end when he was bowled swinging wildly at the impressive Gul.
Paul Collingwood picked up where Shah left off by dispatching Gul for successive leg-side boundaries, Pietersen having gone to a 31-ball half-century containing five fours and three sixes.
Off-spinner Ajmal struck twice in the space of five balls to dent England’s hopes of a daunting total, inducing Collingwood to drive to long-off before Pietersen top-edged a heave across the line to short third man on his way to figures of 2-23.
Dimitri Mascarenhas and James Foster ensured there was no repeat of England’s tardy late-innings effort against Holland by taking 23 off the last two overs, Mascarenhas finding the midwicket fence before Foster launched Afridi over wide long-off off the back foot.
Pakistan’s pursuit was undermined by the early departure of Ahmed Shehzad, whose swipe at Mascarenhas provided Collingwood with a steepling catch at cover.
Kamran Akmal fared little better before he became the first of two wickets in as many balls in Broad’s first over.
He pulled the fast bowler to Wright at deep square-leg, then Salman Butt, who unfurled his favoured cut shot a handful of times in his 23-ball 28, perished in similar fashion as Pakistan slipped to 41 for three.
Younus was the chief aggressor during a fourth-wicket alliance of 46 with Shoaib Malik, but the odds on a Pakistan victory had lengthened considerably by the time the latter edged an expansive drive at Wright to Foster in the 13th over.
Younus’ fluency contrasted sharply with Afridi’s tortuous five off 12 balls - his misery ended when he lofted Graeme Swann to long-on - and Misbah-ul-Haq perished in almost identical fashion off James Anderson to provide substitute fielder Eoin Morgan with a second catch.
All that was left was for Broad, who came in for heavy criticism after his missed run-out cost England victory against Holland, to have Arafat taken at long-off. It was a cathartic moment for both player and team.