Resurgent England progress with huge win
England 185 for 5 (Pietersen 58, Wright 34, Ajmal 2-23) beat Pakistan 137 for 7 (Younis 46*, Broad 3-17) by 48 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
England certainly like doing things the hard way, but kept their ICC World Twenty20 hopes alive with an impressive 48-run victory against Pakistan at The Oval which was so emphatic that they are through to the Super Eights. With the hosts' hopes hanging by a thread Kevin Pietersen returned and hit a sparkling 58 off 38 balls to lift England to a competitive 185 for 5, and Pakistan never got close against a team desperate to erase embarrassing memories
Pakistan, much like England the other night, were well short of their best especially in the field where they dropped at least four catches and produced countless more sloppy pieces of groundwork. They were terribly rusty during their warm-up games and are still a long way from settling, and maybe suffered from knowing they have a second chance against Netherlands on Wednesday, but this defeat was so heavy that even a win in that game might not be enough.
England, as they had to, clearly came out with a point to prove having been rightly criticised for their performance against Netherlands on Friday. Whether Pietersen's return was a case of desperate times calling for desperate measures, or a case of his injury really improving, he produced what England dearly needed from him with one of his best Twenty20 innings.
The innings included six sixes, compared with none two days ago, and Pietersen produced three off his own bat including a monstrous blow into the second tier of the pavilion and a glorious, inside-out, cover-drive off Mohammad Aamer. Pietersen was helped out by two positive innings from Luke Wright, who crunched 34 off 16 balls, and Owais Shah, as he added 66 for the third wicket with Pietersen.
Pakistan had the batting fire-power to chase down the target, but never formed a solid base as England produced a disciplined display with the ball and, most importantly, in the field where they were far superior. Paul Collingwood, a reluctant captain with much pressure on his shoulders, set the pattern with a well judged running catch to remove Ahmed Shehzad off the recalled Dimitri Mascarenhas.
Mascarenhas had been handed the new ball - the role he plays for Hampshire - and Collingwood rotated his pace options. Broad produced the telling over when his short-pitched tactic worked with Kamran Akmal pulling to deep midwicket and the dangerous Salman Butt top-edging to backward point.
From there the innings didn't gain any momentum as Shoaib Malik struggled to score at a run-a-ball and Shahid Afridi's poor form continuing with a painful 12-ball 5 before he holed out off Graeme Swann. Adil Rashid bowl four overs of accurate legspin and held his nerve each time the batsmen came after him. Pakistan didn't manage a six until the 17th over and by then the game was long gone.
The atmosphere when play got underway was electric with huge support for both teams. If there had been a roof on the ground it would have come off when Malik pulled off a good catch at backward point to remove Ravi Bopara, handing debutant Aamer his first wicket.
That brought Pietersen to the crease early after his return to the side following the Achilles injury that ruled him out against Netherlands and the fact he started by dealing in quick singles suggested the problem wasn't causing too much concern. Pietersen sparked into life by slamming a waist-height no-ball down the ground and the resulting extra delivery (although not a free-hit) was launched monstrously straight into the second tier of the pavilion. It registered as 104 metres, just a fraction shorter than Chris Gayle's huge blow yesterday against Australia.
It had been Wright who brought the early impetus by taking 14 off three balls against Aamer, including England's first six of the tournament as the ball flew over deep midwicket. He continued in the next over from Yasir Arafat, but was gifted one boundary when Umar Gul misread the spin at third man and let the ball scoot past him.
Pakistan's disciplines continued to slip when Gul delivered another no-ball, but the question was whether England could keep it going as the crucial phase of the game began with Pakistan introducing their spinners? After a brief look, both men took boundaries off Ajmal and a huge top edge by Pietersen off Afridi carried over fine leg for six. Two more sixes came in the 13th over, bowled by Aamer as the batsmen cut loose.
A mini-cluster of wickets, including two in an over to the impressive Ajmal, meant England's charge wasn't as destructive as it could have been, but unlike against Netherlands the innings finished with a spark rather than a whimper with Mascarenhas and James Foster adding 29 in 19 balls.
It's little things like that which make the difference in Twenty20, and just 48 hours after their biggest humiliation England are into the next stage. Pakistan, meanwhile, have to win against Netherlands. How quickly things change.
Andrew McGlashan is assistant editor of Cricinfo