Strauss century overhauls Pakistan
England 295 for 6 (Strauss 126, Trott 53) beat Pakistan 294 for 8 (Kamran 74, Broad 4-81) by four wickets
Live scorecard and ball-by-ball details
This was the game the summer so desperately needed. A tight contest, in front of a full house, fought to the bitter end as England held their nerve, securing a four-wicket victory with three balls remaining to ensure Andrew Strauss's fantastic 126 didn't go to waste. For a while that looked a close-run thing as the middle order stuttered in the final 10 overs, but Michael Yardy and Tim Bresnan retained their composure to keep the home side's winning run going, and hoist them up to No. 2 in the World ODI rankings.
Strauss and Jonathan Trott added 146 for the second wicket to break the back of a stiff 295-run chase after Pakistan's most complete batting display of the tour. England were never in total command of the asking-rate, but the requirement was looking more challenging than they would have liked after some less-than-clear thinking during the batting Powerplay. After 40 overs they were 221 for 3 - exactly the same score that Pakistan had reached - however, Strauss fell lbw sweeping at Saeed Ajmal before Eoin Morgan, England's cool-headed finisher, picked out the only fielder on the off-side boundary at deep point. Ravi Bopara then failed to clear long-off against Ajmal in the penultimate over to keep the punters on tenterhooks.
But Yardy is also proving himself to be a consummate closer of run-chases having twice been in the middle during the Twenty20 internationals, and he collected a pair of vital boundaries off Umar Gul and Ajmal. Needing 13 off the last two overs, all that was required was clear thinking, but Bopara tried to take advantage of the fielding restrictions and failed, which left Bresnan to guide the side home in front of his home crowd. He cut his first ball through the covers then, in the last over from Gul, top-edged a pull off the keeper to level the scores and extinguish the doubts.
Bresnan had shown calmness earlier in the summer against Australia, at Old Trafford, as England nicked a one-wicket win having looked like throwing victory away, but it was fitting that this win was secured in marginally shambolic fashion as Bresnan chanced a non-existent single to mid-off only for Fawad Alam's throw to miss. So after a few deep breaths and nervous moments England could celebrate a 2-0 cushion in the five-match series and it would have been harsh on Strauss if his innings had ended in a losing cause.
There are still those who question Strauss's place in the one-day side because of a concern his style - dominated by square-of-the-wicket shots - won't be so successful on the slower subcontinent pitches England will face during the World Cup. But he can do no more than score a bucketload of runs, which he has done in recent one-day matches with this being his second hundred in three games following the 154 he struck against Bangladesh at Edgbaston.
Strauss's game is also evolving and while he will probably never plunder runs between mid-off and mid-on, they are still viable scoring areas. His swipe for six over midwicket off Shahid Afridi to reach fifty showed how his game has developed against slow bowling since his return to the one-day arena 18 months ago. It was his 21st six in seven years of ODI cricket. Eleven of those have come since June.
Pakistan will rue two moments; firstly when Mohammad Irfan spilled a catch at short fine-leg with Strauss on 23, then when he was on 38 as Kamran Akmal held a superb catch diving down the leg-side off Gul and Pakistan were convinced there was a glove. Billy Doctrove, however, was unmoved. Still, though, the visitors' fielding was poor with too many fumbles and poor arms in the outfield.
Steven Davies had given another eye-catching glimpse of his ability with 26 off 21 balls to help launch the innings positively before edging behind against Shoaib Akthar and then Strauss was joined by Trott in the crucial partnership. Trott continued to bat in the bubble he has occupied all summer, content to work the gaps while his captain was batting so fluently.
His fifty came from 67 balls and progress was serene for England with barely more than a run a ball required over the last 17 overs. That changed, though, when Trott was run out from short third-man having survived an lbw shout only to charge down the pitch for a reaction single. Paul Collingwood again couldn't get his innings going and picked out long-off against Afridi with Pakistan suddenly believing. They couldn't quite pull off a comeback, but there were continued signs of improvement throughout.
Kamran led from the top with a powerful 72-ball 74. That was followed by a maiden one-day fifty from the impressive Asad Shafiq while Mohammad Yousuf contributed a calm 46. England were below their usual high standards especially with the ground fielding, while Stuart Broad's 4 for 81 was the most expensive four-wicket haul in ODI history.
James Anderson was the only bowler to offer early control as Kamran took to Bresnan and Broad in an opening stand of 122 with Mohammad Hafeez - Pakistan's best in any international during their stay in England. Kamran collected his second consecutive fifty, this one at a run a ball, before playing across the line at Collingwood's second delivery.
However, for once the middle order had a platform set for them which allowed Yousuf and Shafiq to consolidate before attacking again. Yousuf, who offered one very tough opportunity on 18 when Morgan couldn't quite make up considerable ground at deep midwicket, fell when he tried to guide Broad to third man, but Shafiq continued to show his talent when he skipped down the pitch and launched Graeme Swann over long-on.
But Pakistan didn't make full use of their Powerplay as Broad, despite being expensive, claimed three wickets in seven balls while Bresnan and Anderson had their yorkers on target. That lack of late ignition meant the total didn't cross 300 and that proved crucial in the final outcome.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at Cricinfo