June 7, 2001

Pakistan favourites at halfway stage

An innings of brutal power and subtle skill from Inzamam-ul-Haq has set up a challenging total for Pakistan to defend in this first NatWest Series encounter of 2001. In partnership with Saeed Anwar, Inzamam added 150 runs at close to a run a ball as the England bowlers felt the full force of his powerful bat. After Old Trafford they may have had a sense of deja vu.

Pakistan accelerated dramatically from the halfway point of the innings when they stood at 108-2. Saeed's 50 (68 balls 5x4 1x6) came up with his fifth four to add to the six he'd already hit. Another six followed and Vaughan was replaced after an expensive two-over spell that appears to have served to whet the appetite of Inzamam.

At the Pavilion End Paul Collingwood came on for his first bowl in international cricket. But Inzamam was in no mood for a warm welcoming, and launched the ball back past the bowler by way of a 'hello'. Successive ferocious boundaries followed in his next over and Collingwood was removed from the attack after two overs for 18.

Inzamam's 50 came off 66 balls with five fours, quickly followed by the 100 partnership, from just 106 balls and Stewart was forced to recall Darren Gough, a plan that almost worked when Saeed offered a return chance that the bowler was unable to cling on to.

Ben Hollioake was called into the attack to replace Collingwood at the City End and endured a torrid time. He did little wrong and showed that he has learnt much during his time in the international wilderness, but Inzamam was by now in total control. A pull to the mid-wicket fence followed a pick-up through extra cover. Inzamam brought up the 200 with a delicate flick, almost a sweep, having hoisted the previous ball over extra cover in the 40th over. This shot also brought up his 8,000th limited-overs run.

Ealham bowled well, conceding just 35 runs, which in the circumstances, was a great effort, but it was Cork who finally ended the partnership after it had added 150 in just 158 balls. Saeed, caught at point, trying to force off the back foot had scored 77 (106 balls with 6x4 2x6).

This wicket, and the return of Mullally from the Pavilion End, conspired to slow down the run rate. A rare mis-hit from Inzamam dropped between fielders but his determination not to lose momentum eventually got the better of him. Attempting a powerful square drive off Cork he failed to keep the ball on the ground and was taken by Marcus Trescothick fielding on the cover fence - a fine catch, running in. His innings had spanned 95 balls and included nine boundaries.

Azhar Mahmood inadvertently provoked a moment of comedy by falling flat on his face as he walked out to bat, but a delicate late cut for four off Mullally and a fierce square drive off Hollioake showed clearly that England had better take his batting seriously. His final score of 38 took just 24 deliveries.

Hollioake won the mixed blessing of another bowl, this time from the City End, as Stewart juggled his bowlers in an attempt to stop the flow of runs. A one over spell was followed by a change of ends, and a bowl for the Surrey man from the Pavilion End, but some lapses in control contributed to a costly analysis.

A fine, flat throw from Gough ran out Yousuf, going for the second run in Mullally's final over but the new man, Younis, continued the theme as England's bowling started to show the strain. Hollioake was deposited to all corners of Edgbaston and a full toss from Gough was carved over cover by Mahmood for six. England's talisman soon had some revenge though when Younis was caught behind trying to make room on the off side.

Pakistan are firm favourites at the halfway stage of this game, but England may have settled for this total when Inzamam and Saeed were together. They need 274 to win when the floodlights come on.