Pakistan v England, 1st ODI, Abu Dhabi February 13, 2012

Cook and Finn star in England's first victory


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.

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2012, 9:58 GMT

    @Gerard Pereira i agree india have got batting talant but lets be honest as a nuetral fan you much rather have watched Pak VS Eng than the last two series india have played no disrespect.... pakistan have become boring your right being bowled out for 99 and still winning or defending 140 odd may not be exciting for you but i was jumping for everytime there was a wicket!... pakistan were much more exciting in the past but never managed to acheive there potential and were very unpredictable... but to find consistency pakistan have had to give up on a little flare... every team to get to number one had to play boring cricket... i for one dont care if pakistan are not no.1 as long as we win!

  • mudassar on February 15, 2012, 6:13 GMT

    Gerard Pereira on (February 14 2012, 22:23 PM GMT). Agree totally with u. if india gave us 2 top batsmen an we gave india 2 top bowlers u would be looking at the 2 best teams in world cricket.

  • mudassar on February 15, 2012, 6:09 GMT

    DAYNIGHTERS - win the toss = win the game - look at the stats, nuff said

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2012, 5:10 GMT

    Lost one match is not an issue but lost in a way like this raised several question. Cook and Finn superb in the match. But Pakistan Team Management has to select one day portfolio team and desired player for positions. Never saw Farhat batting against tough competitor. Malik continuously our of form. Amazingly Cheema had been benched and Finn performed. Middle order woes yet not prevented.Team should be best for one Day. Permanent wicket-keeper is need but not siblings as we showed cramps raised to Umar Akmal while Sangakara is playing since debue. Scurtinize the team, keep favouritism a side and put best XI in course to win.

  • Dummy4 on February 15, 2012, 0:42 GMT

    @Gerard - Having killed test cricket?? Are you out of your mind? Pakistan/England matches were being followed all across the world and were extremely entertaining. Empty stadiums were no good but TV audiences had a thrilling time. Sorry to say but when India loses so badly - then my friend is no fun to watch. Hope they improve and their old time good batsmen show their game again before they say good-bye!

  • Sharon on February 15, 2012, 0:02 GMT

    @Gerard Pereira on (February 14 2012, 15:23 PM GMT) You HAVEN'T GOT A CLUE. If "England killed test cricket" why did 50,000 people try to get in to Lords last year to watch England beat India? Lords - a ground that holds 27,000. "Empty stadiums", "lack of atmosphere", "lack of thrills and spills". Man YOU REALLY HAVEN'T got a clue. Go to ANY ASHES Test match in Aus or England - that's if you can get a ticket, and see if dribble you talk is true. And all this from a follower of a team who cannot even buy a test match win against either Aus or Eng. "fighting over a comb". What a joke your posts are. LOL. Please publish.

  • Dummy4 on February 14, 2012, 22:23 GMT

    Asghar Maqsood. I am not trying to disrespect Pakistan cricket and am really glad they beat England in the test series however they did that on the bowling performance of just three bowlers, Gul, Ajmal and Rehman. Truth be told they are not the most exciting side to watch in world cricket, especially in ODIs and neither are England.There is a ODI series being played down in Oz with all the matches going down to the wire. Nobody of the calibre of Inzy or Javed coming through and a great shame about Amir. I will agree with you that India's bowling has always been inferior to Pakistans but right now man for man India have by far the stronger and more attractive batting lineup.

  • John on February 14, 2012, 21:37 GMT

    @Gerard Pereira on (February 14 2012, 15:23 PM GMT) - You're absolutely right again. We can't all play in such nailbiting test matches as the last 8 away tests India have been involved in. We have a saying that People In Glass Houses Shouldn't Throw Stones.

  • Dummy4 on February 14, 2012, 20:45 GMT

    @Posted by Gerard Pereira on (February 14 2012, 17:44 PM GMT)... seriously? are you saying indias bowling is good because they got pakistan out in the World Cup? most pakistan fans know that we cant chase a score plus you may recall we lost a few players at that point....

  • stuart on February 14, 2012, 18:52 GMT

    Randy Oz.Yep Finn looks pedestrian indeed.ironically though he is not injured all the time.Slim picking indeed in the Ashes next year. You lot are going home empty handed once more.Broad,Finn,Anderson and swann or Monty. Yep pretty pedestrian against your attack that we smacked around last year.

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