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June 7, 2009
Comeback of the day
On Friday afternoon he had merely been rested. Come Saturday morning, as the Netherlands post-mortem kicked in, his Achilles problem had become so serious his participation in the Ashes was under threat. Somewhere between those two extremes lies the truth about Kevin Pietersen's hurty heel, but by God England were grateful to have him back tonight. For a man who professes to being "not very good at Twenty20", Pietersen packed a mean punch as he provided impetus to England's survival bid with a 31-ball half-century, including a drilled six over long-off that rivalled even the power that Chris Gayle brought to this ground on Saturday. Where he led, his team-mates followed, as England atoned for their Dutch disaster with admirable purpose.
Shot of the day
It was nothing special by the standards of the striking that we've seen at The Oval in the past 24 hours - nothing more than a flat pull from Luke Wright that scudded over midwicket. But in the context of a flatlining campaign it meant so, so much. After 143 deliveries, one humiliating defeat, and acres of abusive newsprint, England had finally managed to hit their first six of the World Twenty20. By the end of their innings they had cleared the ropes on five subsequent occasions, but as any pimply youth will tell you, the first time is always the most special.
Shot of the day Mk 2
It's not like Pakistan to hold back from aerial shots, but a combination of effective English bowling and their own peculiar reticence meant we had to wait until the 17th over of the innings for their first blow over the ropes. Misbah-ul-Haq was the man to do the business, an abrupt wallop up and over long-on that put an unwarranted dent in Wright's excellent figures. Sadly for Misbah - and Pakistan - the fun did not endure. He was clumsily dropped at point off the next ball by Ravi Bopara, and at the start of the next over he picked out Eoin Morgan at mid-on while attempting a repeat of that blow.
Strangler of the day
At Lord's on Friday, Adil Rashid had proved powerless to halt the Dutch surge, but this time around, on a wicket entering its eighth innings in two days, he had the stage to show his class and he did not disappoint. With admirable control, and ably assisted by Wright and Graeme Swann, Rashid sent down 24 deliveries between the sixth and 14th overs at exactly a run a ball, and he did not concede a boundary until the start of his third over. By the time he completed his spell, Pakistan needed the small matter of 15.50 runs per over, and the game was already in the bag. It was an impressive comeback from a man who might have felt a touch traumatised by his debut.
Bowler of the day
Talking of trauma, Stuart Broad has had his fill of it at World Twenty20s. The man who was smacked for six sixes at Durban in 2007 suffered an even greater humiliation against the Dutch, when his brilliant final over was rendered irrelevant by the woefulness of his own fielding. Happily for England, he didn't dwell on that disaster, and returned with renewed aggression. His three overs went for 17 runs and accounted for three Pakistan wickets, including two in two balls as Kamran Akmal and Salman Butt imploded at the top end of the run-chase.
Nutmeg of the day
Pakistan spilled four catches in a sloppy fielding performance, most of them ludicrously simple. But their most embarrassing lapse came from Umar Gul at third man, who managed to let the ball trickle through his defences to hoots of derision from a deafeningly excited Oval crowd. An exuberant hoick from Wright spun off a thick edge, bounced once, twice, three times in front of Gul, then hopped like a fluffy bunny rabbit straight through the hole in his long barrier. Umar knelt in contemplation for a moment, stroking his chin like Rodin's Thinker, then turned sheepishly to retrieve the ball from the rope, and face a barrage of well-earned abuse.
Debut of the day
As a lithe and whippy left-armer, the 17-year-old Mohammad Aamer has an awful lot of hype to live up to. Comparisons with the great Wasim Akram aren't exactly helpful for a youngster making his way in the game, and yet, Aamer still managed to make a favourable first impression when he removed England's man of the moment, Ravi Bopara, with his second delivery in international cricket. Granted it was a bit short and wide, but there was enough pace on the ball for Bopara's loose carve to take an edge, and Shoaib Malik at backward point leapt with vigour to pouch a brilliant full-stretch catch.
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