After an opening game, comprehensive, victory over South Africa, England were brought back down to earth with a bang, suffering a loss in their second group game to Pakistan – a few weeks after demolishing them in an ODI series and seeing them battered by the West Indies in their own opening game.
Despite centuries from Joe Root and Jos Buttler, England couldn’t chase down the formidable total set by the Pakistan batsmen – who posted 348/8 from their 50 overs. To win, England would need to break the world record in the World Cup for a successful run chase. But they fell 14 runs short, finishing on 334/9 after their 50 over allotment.
England, normally super sharp and slick in the field were, for once, shoddy and careless. Chris Woakes apart, who took four catches on top of his three wickets, including one off his own bowling, the English unit mis-fielded on several occasions, and post match analysis revealed they gave away 17 runs to Pakistan via these mistakes – enough to hand Pakistan the victory. Jason Roy also dropped Mohammed Hafeez very early on – then watched him proceed to make a man of the match innings of 84, sharing vital stands with Babar Azam and Sarfaraz Ahmed which gave Pakistan the base to post their huge total.
Despite the total, confidence was high that England could, would, hunt this down. Captain Eoin Morgan had won the toss and put Pakistan into bat, knowing his strong batting unit were the worlds best at chasing down totals – especially at Trent Bridge, Nottingham, which held the highest batting average of all ODI grounds in the world. But despite the afore-mentioned centuries, first from Joe Root and then from Jos Buttler (pictured above), England could never truly get ahead of the run rate. They lost opener Jason Roy early on, Jonny Bairstow fell for 32 and Morgan could not, for once, play his captains innings and was dismissed for just 9.
But hope sprang eternal as Root and Buttler played England back into the game with a splendid partnership of 130, after Ben Stokes had gone for 13. Root playing the solid, scoreboard ticking over, game he is known for, whilst Buttler was more cavalier in his approach, and always had strike rate exceeding 100. It looked that these would carry England if not to victory, very close to it – but, crucially, Root clipped Shadab Khan to short third man where Babar Azam took a sharp but straight forward catch. Root infuriated with himself having just claimed an excellent century, but dismissed just a few runs later.
With Buttler still at the crease however, England felt they were still in with a great chance. But the Pakistan bowlers bowled superbly with around 10 overs to go, mixing up their angles and speeds – several slower balls getting false shots from the now pressured England batsmen who struggled to despatch the ball to the boundary with any consistency.
Arguably the game went on the dismissal of Buttler. Mohammed Amir, Pakistan’s principal bowler, came back into the attack and another slower ball bamboozled Buttler, who was trying in vain to exert his prowess and power to keep on top of the rate needed, and he could only chip the ball to Wahab Riaz who claimed a simple catch. Despite some lusty blows from the impressive Chris Woakes, and then at the death with the game gone from Mark Wood, Pakistan ran out victors and were extremely impressive on the day.
The loss came out of the blue. This was Pakistan’s first ODI win in 12 matches – and only three days ago had been dismissed for just 105 by the West Indies. England had not lost at home in a ODI for over 4 years – and whilst it would be a reach to expect them to go through the World Cup group stages without a loss, no one really expected it to be Pakistan who would hand it to them. You could not accuse England of taking their opponents for granted – but it really was a bad day at the office for the hosts and tournament favourites. Their upcoming games against the dangerous Bangladesh and West Indies now take on extra significance. They simply cannot afford to lose any further games, with the likes of Australia, India and New Zealand still to come. If they do, they will be in real danger of not making the knockout phase – which would be a disaster for the host nation.
ENGLAND v PAKISTAN – MATCH SUMMARY
Pakistan : 348/8 (Hafeez 84, Azam 63, Ahmed 55)
England : 334/9 (Root 107, Buttler 103, Bairstow 32)
Pakistan win by 14 runs