Bazid guides Pakistan A to one-wicket win
Pakistan XI 239 for 9 (Bazid 90*, Rafatullah 55, Anderson 4-46) beat England XI 236 for 7 (Collingwood 75*, Prior 72) by one wicket
Another match against Pakistan A at Bagh-e-Jinnah, another setback for England. Last month it was Hasan Raza who sealed a memorable match with an unbeaten 71; today another young cricketer with a point to prove also pushed his claims for an international recall. Bazid Khan, the son of the legendary Majid, guided Pakistan A to the finish with a superb unbeaten 90 from 88 balls, and served notice that he is not satisfied with his current haul of one Test cap and three ODI appearances.
Chasing 237 for victory as the light faded in the leafy surrounds of Bagh-e-Jinnah, Bazid stood firm in spite of a late wobble from the tail, and applied the coup de grace with a brilliant piece of improvisation. James Anderson, who had bowled impressively with the new ball, returned at the death to grab three wickets in six deliveries, and at 217 for 8, Pakistan A's challenge appeared to have faded.
Bazid however, had other ideas, and wrested back the initiative in Anderson's next over, as he dropped to one knee, and deflected a full-length delivery high and handsomely over the keeper for a one-bounce four. A crestfallen Anderson was then clobbered over the covers for the winning runs, and England have now gone five matches and as many weeks without a victory since their opening three-day fixture in Rawalpindi.
In mitigation, England were missing three of their biggest guns. Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Flintoff and Steve Harmison were all rested after their exertions in the Test series, leaving the captaincy in the hands of Andrew Strauss, who has only just returned to the tour following the birth of his first child, Samuel. After losing the toss and being asked to bat first, Strauss was also the first wicket to fall, caught behind off Riaz Afridi for 5 as England struggled in the misty morning conditions.
But as the sun cut through the clouds and the early life in the pitch died down, Matt Prior began to unfurl the selection of strokes that could earn him a role as England's Supersub when Trescothick returns to the top of the order. He added 76 for the second wicket with Vikram Solanki, who has been offered another opportunity in the absence of Michael Vaughan, before Solanki was superbly caught for 26 by Tahir Khan, running back from point to take a skied swish over his shoulder.
That gave Abdul Razzaq a welcome wicket on his comeback from injury, and soon afterwards Kevin Pietersen's difficult tour continued, as he was bowled by a beauty from Yasir Arafat for 2. Prior's performance then ended as he top-edged a sweep to short backward square-leg, giving Tahir his first wicket of the innings.
At 134 for 4, the innings was in the balance, but Paul Collingwood came into his own in the middle order, marshalling the final overs as a selection of colleagues played handy cameos around him. England's team for this match included all three one-day specialists - Solanki, Kabir Ali and Ian Blackwell, as well as Prior and Anderson, neither of whom took part in the Test series.
Blackwell, who has a golden opportunity to cement a slot in the side ahead of the World Cup next winter, had moved along to a quickfire 15 when he was caught behind off Iftikhar Rao, while Kabir's innings ended in freakish circumstances, when his thumping straight drive cannoned off Collingwood's shoulder and looped into the hands of Rafitullah Mohammad at mid-on.
England's total was more or less par for the conditions, and when Yasir Hameed edged a beauty from Anderson to Solanki at first slip, it looked doubly impressive. But Pakistan rallied through a third-wicket partnership of 60 between Bazid and Rafatullah Mohmand, who made 55 before he was brilliantly caught by Pietersen off Collingwood.
Collingwood added a second when Razzaq was bowled for 8, but Faisal Iqbal cracked four fours and a six in a quickfire 33 to keep Pakistan A's challenge alive. But ultimately it was Bazid who made the difference between the teams, as England's problematic tour of Pakistan hit another spot of turbulence.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo