Flintoff and Strauss star in England win
After the disappointments of the Test series England showed impressive spirit to seal a 42-run win in a high-octane opening one-day international at Lahore. The victory was set up by the middle order pyrotechnics of Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Flintoff plus a composed 94 from Andrew Strauss. But England had to overcome Pakistan's own fireworks after Salman Butt and Younis Khan had threatened to race away with the run chase.
Pakistan replicated, and surpassed, the thunderous strokeplay of England's middle order and at 132 for 1 after 19 overs were ahead of the game. Then, at 262 for 4, a second surge was on the cards before the last six wickets crashed for 20 runs. Butt and Younis flayed the ball to all parts; Steve Harmison's first four overs cost 30 and Flintoff's 41. Marcus Trescothick was finding life tough as the England captain, but didn't lose his cool. He shrewdly delayed the second Powerplay to rein in the batsmen, then recalled Harmison and Flintoff who struck a vital blow each.
However, the star bowlers for England were the unheralded duo of Liam Plunkett, the Supersub on his ODI debut, and Ian Blackwell, who was returning to the side for the first time in nearly 18 months. Blackwell handed Trescothick control of the innings with his flat left-arm spin and didn't concede a boundary in his ten overs; a fine effort after the earlier carnage.
Plunkett produced further evidence of his immense promise, keeping calm as the ball was dispatched around the ground. Trescothick entrusted him at the death and he didn't disappoint. His ninth over sealed the game, producing the wickets of Abdul Razzaq, Shoaib Malik and the run out of Shoaib Akhtar. He also grabbed the vital wicket of Mohammad Yousuf, who was preparing to launch Pakistan's second assault after constructing a stand of 83 with Malik.
The key period of the match, where England regained control after the stand of 117 in 17.2 overs between Butt and Younis, was Trescothick's use of his slower bowlers, Blackwell and Paul Collingwood. Pakistan went 12 overs without a boundary and Collingwood removed Inzaman-ul-Haq with a slower ball.
The ferocity of Pakistan's chase emphasised how vital England's impressive total was - setting the tone for what promises to be a high-scoring series. Pietersen and Flintoff provided the thrills but needed a foundation and a foil. Matt Prior, given a chance as an opener, provided the platform while Strauss countered Pietersen's blazing boundaries with steady accumulation and smart running. Unlike Pakistan's approach later in the day, England built steadily before exploding through their power-hitters in the middle order.
Pietersen took his time to settle but when he decided to up the tempo the ball disappeared. In one period of 12 balls he smashed 32 runs, as Malik and Danish Kaneria both watched deliveries land in the stand at deep midwicket. A stunning on drive brought up his fifty from 35 balls and when he was stumped down the leg side Pakistan breathed a sigh of relief - but not for long.
Strauss's measured approach formed the perfect alliance. He eased along at almost a run a ball, showing no ill effects from his return trip to London, and put his poor form from the Tests behind him. When the field spread he settled into accumulation mode as the big-hitting took over - and no one hits bigger than Flintoff.
With Paul Collingwood, Flintoff added 90 in 11 overs. His fifty came from 55 balls, then he blasted another 22 from his last 10 balls. As Flintoff cleared the stands, Collingwood showed his highly effective sweep off the seamers. After appearing jaded in the final Test Flintoff was back to his destructive best and not even a fiery Shoaib could stem the flow of runs. Naved-ul-Hasan, so effective last week, was carted for 18 in four balls as the innings drew to a close.
Flintoff felt some punishment when he bowled, but completed an impressive all round day and his third wicket was his 100th in ODIs. However, England should beware; last winter they started against South Africa with a win before losing the series 4-1. Pakistan are well equipped to bounce back in the next match on Monday but, for, now the England players will just be pleased to have completed their first win on tour.
Marcus Trescothick c Kaneria b Naved-ul-Hasan 13 (43 for 1)
Lobbed slightly slower ball to mid off
Matt Prior lbw b Sami 45 (94 for 2)
Lost a low full toss
Kevin Pietersen st Akmal b Malik 56 (185 for 3)
Charged at a leg-side wide
Andrew Strauss c Butt b Kaneria 94 (237 for 4)
Pulled to deep midwicket
Kamran Akmal b Anderson 5 (15 for 1)
Salman Butt c Flintoff b Harmison 67 (132 for 2)
Driven to mid off
Younis Khan c Collingwood b Flintoff 60 (160 for 3)
Low catch at point from a square drive
Inzamam-ul-Haq c Jones b Collingwood 13 (179 for 4)
Thin edge to an attempted glide
Mohammad Yousuf c Solanki b Plunkett 59 (262 for 5)
Slower ball went miles up, well judged by long on running around
Abdul Razzaq c Jones b Plunkett 13 (279 for 6)
Huge swing at a slower ball, thin edge
Shoaib Malik c Jones b Plunkett 50 (282 for 7)
Top-edge pull, taken after a bobble
Shoaib Akhtar run out (Jones) 3 (282 for 8)
Keeper threw down stumps running forward
Mohammad Sami c Trescothick b Flintoff 1 (285 for 9)
Carved to short extra-cover
Danish Kaneria b Flintoff 0 (285 all out)
Andrew McGlashan is editorial assistant of Cricinfo