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February 13, 2012
England 260 for 7 (Cook 137, Bopara 50, Ajmal 5-43) beat Pakistan 130 (Finn 4-34) by 130 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Alastair Cook's right to the England one-day captaincy is routinely questioned, but he could have hardly done more in Abu Dhabi to end the carping. His highest one-day score reasserted his right to the job and stilled suggestions that Pakistan's whitewash in the Test series would be followed by another mismatch in the one-day format as England secured a convincing 130-run victory.
Cook's 137 from 142 balls was the only innings of substance in a match comprehensively won by England as Steven Finn took four wickets in a hostile new-ball burst. Cook's Essex team-mate, Ravi Bopara, managed 50, but needed some good fortune; only two other batsmen reached 20. England's captain has given this series a new flavour.
The figures spoke for themselves. Only his Essex and England mentor, Graham Gooch, has made a higher England one-day score against Pakistan. This was the first England hundred on a troubled tour of the United Arab Emirates. Cook also made the highest ODI score at the Sheikh Zayed stadium. Beneath the roof of a stand that looks like the body of the Starship Enterprise, as captains go, he was beginning to rival the intergalactic kudos only normally given to James T Kirk.
Cook aside, the bowlers prospered. Saeed Ajmal, who took 24 wickets in the three-Test series, went unrewarded until his seventh over, but he then rounded up England's innings with 5 for 15 in his last 23 balls, his menace briefly suppressed but never eradicated. Cook was his penultimate victim, cleverly bowled behind his legs as he planted his leg outside off stump to sweep.
For Finn, who carried the drinks during the Test series, it was then not as much 'lights, action' as lights, traction, as he put weeks of inactivity behind him to settle the match, making full use of the encouragement brought by evening dew under the floodlights and a fresh breeze in an incisive new-ball burst of 4 for 20 in six overs.
Criticism is never far away when it comes to the assessment of Cook's worth as England's captain in 50-over cricket. Moments after England had been trounced 3-0 in the Test series, Ian Botham called for him to be replaced by Stuart Broad in the one-day series. England had not played a shot in anger all series, said Botham, and under Cook's one-day stewardship nothing was about to change.
When Cook fell, 23 balls from the end of the innings, the rest of the batsmen had made 78. His one-day striking rate is not far short of a run a ball now and that he can achieve this while looking so orthodox is testimony to his resourcefulness.
That his game is developing is undeniable. He tucked the ball confidently into the legside, stretched into some pleasing off-side drives and opened up gaps with subtle footwork and shrewd placement. If his slog sweep against Shahid Afridi to reach 50 was an example of a newish shot in his armoury, his cut to reach a hundred when Saeed Ajmal dropped short was conventional punishment of a poor delivery won by a batsman whose consistency of thought and deed had gradually asserted his authority. If he still looks stilted at times, at least he can now do it in 100 different ways.
England's restive batting otherwise had little else to commend it. Shahid Afridi must have watched England's distress against spin during the Test series and licked his lips at the fun to come in the ODIs. He was not to be disappointed. He bamboozled Kevin Pietersen and Jonathan Trott in successive balls, a quick legspinner and googly respectively, and he also had Bopara stone dead lbw on two only for the umpire, Ahsan Raza, to turn down the appeal.
Pietersen, at the top of the order for the fifth time in an ODI, might have been run out on nought if Imran Farhat had not fumbled at mid-on and also needed a reprieve from DRS when he wandered across his stumps to one that Umar Gul cut back. Pietersen's incredulity at Raza's lbw decision summed up his desperate state of mind. Never has a man formally tapped the top of his bat to request a third-umpire ruling with such a BAFTA-winning performance.
Cook needed a reprieve himself, on 30, when Simon Taufel's decision that Hafeez had dismissed him lbw was overturned because of a big inside edge. He reviewed in a quiet, matter-of-fact manner, lacking Pietersen's penchant for the theatrical.
Ajmal then reminded England that he was around. Eoin Morgan perished to a reverse sweep, his preferred one-dayers bringing no immediate sustenance. Craig Kieswetter was spared the ignominy of the Test series and has wintered on the sub continent, attending to his method against the spinners, but he was the latest England batsman to have little inkling against Ajmal and fell to a desperate heave.
England's 260 was only a few runs above par in Abu Dhabi, but Finn swung the match in England's favour, touching 90mph at times and maintaining a straight, fullish length. Two of his four victims, Mohammad Hafeez and Asad Shafiq, fell lbw and Younis Khan's inside edge was athletically grasped by the wicketkeeper, Kieswetter, who then held a second catch to dismiss Imran Farhat. The coltish look about Finn in his early England games has all but departed, the improvement shown during England's 5-0 ODI trouncing in India in October when he was one of the few successes of the tour rousingly confirmed.
Worse followed for Pakistan as the captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, who was dismissed lbw five times in the Test series, was against struck in front, this time by the left-arm slows of Samit Patel. Shoaib Malik had been called up to Pakistan's squad on the insistence of his captain, Misbah, and a confused innings, 7 from 23 balls, did nothing to justify the captain's choice.
Add the fact that Umar Akmal was struggling with a strained back, for which he could not have a runner because of ICC playing conditions - a ruling that the MCC, custodians of the Laws, strongly opposes - and Pakistan were out of contention. Afridi brought cheers from the Pakistan supporters with a few ebullient shots, but most interest in that came from a Nottinghamshire sideshow. After Patel dropped Afridi off Graeme Swann at long-on, Swann then caught Afridi off Patel at long-off. On the coach back to the hotel, Patel would have been well advised to put his headphones on.
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