England end summer in style
England brought the curtain down on a hugely impressive international summer with a NatWest Series-clinching victory over Pakistan at the Rose Bowl.
They bounced back from defeat in their previous two games to storm to a comprehensive 121-run win in front of a sell-out crowd, bowling Pakistan out for 135 in a fitting finale to a season in which they have won six series against three teams.
Victory under the floodlights tonight was built around performances of the highest calibre from Eoin Morgan, who made a splendid unbeaten 107 in a total of 256 for six, and a bowling attack spearheaded by the consistently excellent Graeme Swann.
The off-spinner, who was this week shortlisted for the International Cricket Council’s player of the year award, took 3-26 from nine overs, including the wickets of Mohammad Yousuf and Shahid Afridi in successive balls to undermine a Pakistan chase that began in thrilling fashion.
Morgan capped a wonderful evening on a personal and team level when he caught Shoaib Akhtar off Stuart Broad, ending a Pakistan innings which, much like their tour, veered from the exceptional to the amateurish.
This one-day campaign may have been played against a backdrop of scandal, but that should not detract from the excellence of England’s cricket throughout a long summer which has seen them beat Bangladesh in one-day and Test cricket, Australia in the 50-over arena and Pakistan in all three forms of the game.
Not without good reason can they approach their next assignment, the Ashes in Australia starting in November, with much optimism.
On the ground where he made a match-winning hundred against Australia in June, Morgan rescued England from a position of some peril in making 107 off 101 balls.
He shared a restorative 93-run partnership for the fifth wicket with Collingwood, whose innings of 47 was interrupted by a migraine.
Ian Bell had set the recovery in motion with a watchful 28 while Tim Bresnan helped Morgan flay 54 off the last 4.4 overs.
Morgan went to three figures in the final over of an often chaotic innings that saw England suffer a top-order collapse, Collingwood’s migraine and a groin injury to Bell.
To add to a frantic evening, Yousuf hurt his ankle in the field - like Bell, he required a runner - and the recalled Luke Wright later departed the action after bowling a crucial six-over spell that cost just 16 runs.
The competitiveness of England’s total was briefly challenged by Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez during a rapid opening stand of 63, but Broad struck twice in two balls and Swann repeated the feat as England showed the spirit which has become their hallmark to turn what was a tense contest into a rout.
To their credit, Pakistan - led by the effervescent Shoaib - bowled with great gusto, and the NatWest Series trophy may well be heading to Pakistan tonight had it not been for Morgan.
After off-spinner Hafeez had lured Steven Davies out his crease in the sixth over of the England innings, Shoaib swung one between Jonathan Trott’s bat and pad and found Andrew Strauss’ edge in the space in successive overs.
From 47 for three, survival became the watchword for Bell, more so when Collingwood - in obvious discomfort and his vision seemingly impaired by a severe headache - left the field.
Bell did not appear overly inconvenienced by his injury, adding 47 with a similarly restrained Morgan before, betrayed by a lack of foot movement, he was bowled by Afridi via inside edge and pad.
Morgan - reprieved on 31 by Yousuf, who released the ball as his momentum carried him over the rope at long-on - mixed the occasional reverse-sweep and lofted drive with deft placement and alert running, helping restore stability with a revitalised Collingwood.
An Umar Gul yorker did for Collingwood, who did not hit a single boundary in his 71-ball innings, and Wright - playing in place of stomach bug victim Michael Yardy - was bowled by a Shoaib full toss, but Bresnan weighed in with a couple of lusty blows while Morgan freed his arms in thrilling fashion.
He swung Saeed Ajmal through Fawad Alam’s fingers at long-on and swatted him back over his head to go to a 97-ball hundred in a frantic final over which yielded 19.
Pakistan’s reply began in riotous fashion, Kamran and Hafeez sharing 10 fours as they raced past 50 inside eight overs.
But Kamran turned down what appeared a comfortable single the ball before Hafeez was superbly held one-handed by Collingwood, diving to his right at backward point. Hafeez’s glare at his partner said everything.
Broad located Asad Shafiq’s edge with his next delivery and Wright ensured Collingwood’s drop to reprieve Kamran on 33 was not costly when he won a fortuitous lbw appeal.
It should be no surprise by now that Swann struck in his first over, bowling left-hander Fawad Alam with the sort of ball most off-spinners dream of but which has become commonplace for him: pitching on leg stump and hitting the top of off.
The one which accounted for Yousuf hardly suffered in comparison - it bowled him through the gate for 20 as he lunged forward - and Afridi’s departure first ball - playing on with an open blade - was a cause of unconfined joy for England.
What followed was routine, Umar Akmal caught and bowled at the second attempt by Collingwood before wicketkeeper Davies and Morgan, from cover point, ran out Gul and Ajmal respectively.
When Shoaib’s leading edge looped to Morgan at cover, there were 13 overs unused, and England’s wholehearted celebrations spoke volumes for what victory in this absorbing and occasionally fractious series meant to them.