'It's the win that we needed' - Waqar
Pakistan's coach, Waqar Younis, admitted that their series-salvaging victory in the third ODI against England was the result that his team needed as they enter the final week of a long, fraught and controversial tour. Having been faced with the prospect of a 3-0 scoreline and two dead-rubber matches at Lord's and the Rose Bowl, an uplifted squad has been imbued with renewed optimism.
"After the two losses, we really needed something like this," said Waqar. "The series is still alive, and this gives us the incentive that we can come back and maybe win the series now. It's been a really tough tour on the field and off it, so we're pretty pleased to be back in this one-day series, but there's still plenty of work to be done."
Pakistan's victory came on the day that Scotland Yard's investigators passed a file of evidence to the Crown Prosecution Service, as the spot-fixing controversy prepared to move forward to its next phase after several destabilising weeks in which the team has been deprived of the services, through suspension, of three of its key players, including both new-ball bowlers Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif.
Waqar denied any knowledge of this latest turn of events, and insisted that the squad had been fully focussed on its cricket, and that seemed self-evident from the performance of Umar Gul, the most influential seamer still within the Pakistan camp. He produced a performance of irresistible full-length reverse-swing to rout England's lower-order and deliver victory with his career-best figures of 6 for 42.
"The way Umar bowled was outstanding," said Waqar. "[After making 241], there was no way for us to bowl 50 overs and win this game. Our only chance was to bowl the English team out - and we've done that. Shoaib Akhtar was important too, because we really needed early wickets, but this wasn't a fluke. The boys really played well in a team effort, and the entire thing was what we needed."
Gul's performance was his finest in England since the World Twenty20 in 2009, when he once again starred on this ground with the remarkable figures of 5 for 6 against New Zealand. On that occasion, Daniel Vettori cast aspersions on the legitimacy of his performance, a suggestion that had caused Waqar to react with fury. There was no need for such a strident defence of his efforts on this occasion, as England knew they had been beaten fair and square.
"One big reason for his reverse swing is that he's got an action that really helps," said Waqar. "He also does a lot of practice, which really makes him a good reverse-swing bowler, especially at the death with his yorkers because you have to know how to manage them."
One concern for Pakistan as they look ahead to Lord's on Monday was the fitness of their wicketkeeper, Kamran Akmal, who took a blow on the ring finger while spilling a low edge off Michael Yardy, and had to be replaced by his brother Umar for the latter stages of the innings. Waqar could not confirm whether he'd suffered a fracture as yet, but remained optimistic at this stage. "He'll go for an x-ray tonight, and we hope he'll be all right," he said.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo.