England's winning momentum showed no signs of abating as they took the opening one-day international at Chester-le-Street by 24 runs, but at least they were made to work a little harder by Pakistan. Steve Davies led the batting effort with a powerful 87 off 67 balls, his first international half-century, and was backed up by a composed 69 from Jonathan Trott as England piled up 274 for 6 in a match reduced to 41 overs by a wet outfield. For once the visitors' batting didn't implode as some spirited contributions kept them alive but they couldn't find the major stand required.
There are 12 ODIs between now and the start of the World Cup for England to finalise their plans but conditions in Durham during early September are a million miles away from anything they'll face in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. However, this is a strong one-day unit being put into place and one of the few areas still containing some uncertainty, the wicketkeeper-opening batsman, was a success here with Davies' impressive effort.
His only previous ODI came as an emergency replacement for Matt Prior at last year's Champions Trophy when he faced Australia in the semi-final at Centurion. Here he timed the ball beautifully all around the wicket and was especially strong square through the off side whenever he was offered width during a lively 37-ball fifty. Unlike Craig Kieswetter, who often looked hyperactive at the crease and lost control of his shots, Davies remained still and composed until he fell cutting at Saeed Ajmal.
In their current frame of mind it would have taken a monumental effort from Pakistan to chase down the runs, but they at least gave themselves half a chance. Mohammad Hafeez and Kamran Akmal added 62 for the first wicket, Pakistan's best opening stand in any international since the Headingley Test against Australia, before Graeme Swann's usual party trick of a first over wicket when Hafeez was well caught at deep-square leg.
Despite all the allegations circulating in recent weeks players have insisted the matches will be played in the right spirit, but for a moment tensions nearly boiled over during Stuart Broad's second over. Kamran pulled out of his stance and pointed angrily towards Trott at mid-on then Andrew Strauss became involved before Billy Doctrove stepped in. The heated moment appeared to pass by the end of the over, but feelings were clearly running fairly high.
England's fielding wasn't quite at its best as Kamran was given two lives in two balls when he was missed by Strauss at point and Trott at long-off. This time the home side had breathing space, but Andy Flower and Richard Halsall, the fielding coach, will have noted the errors.
Michael Yardy reasserted England's control when he had Mohammad Yousuf lbw coming too far across the crease and Swann won his duel against Kamran when the wicketkeeper couldn't clear long off having made his first half-century of the tour.
Umar Akmal hit 43 off 33 balls before trying to scooping Broad over the keeper and Asad Shafiq showed some spirit as he clubbed Tim Bresnan for four boundaries. But Shahid Afridi could barely middle the ball during a painful 25-ball innings and when he carved to cover it really was the end for Pakistan's slim chances.
It was England's efficient batting display which set up the victory and they'd been led off in style as the new opening duo of Davies and Strauss who added 78 in 12 overs. Mohammad Irfan's much-anticipated introduction into international cricket didn't quite go to plan as his first over was dispatched for 15. However, it was still a touch harsh when he was whipped out of the attack after one over and his replacement, Umar Gul, didn't do any better as his two-over burst cost 22 and he finished with 67 off six overs.
Shoaib Akhtar was the only paceman to offer any control and was unlucky not to claim success in an opening five-over burst that cost just nine runs. He received very little support, however, and despite his parsimonious efforts England had 63 on the board at the end of his opening spell. Davies was dropped at short cover on 21 when Afridi could hold a stinging drive and Strauss continued to show impressive intent - no doubt aware that scoring heavily off the spinners will be key in the World Cup - as he launched Ajmal over long-on for his second six, Ajmal, though, claimed revenge when Strauss missed a mighty sweep and he was given a send-off by the bowler for his troubles.
With Trott playing himself in and working the ball for ones and twos the onus was on Davies to keep the tempo high which he did successfully until he tried to cut Ajmal 13 short of his hundred.
Pakistan were unlucky not to strike again shortly afterwards when Doctrove failed to spot Trott's edge off Ajmal on 26 and then lost the services of Irfan who limped off midway through his sixth over.
Paul Collingwood fell trying to take advantage of the batting Powerplay and Eoin Morgan edged a cut off Afridi, but Trott registered his first boundary off his 54th delivery when he back-cut Shoaib.
Trott then brought up his fifty from 64 balls and immediately stepped on the gas with the confidence of a man who is in the form of his life. A few lusty blows from Ravi Bopara ensured the momentum was all England's and they never really looked liked losing. It says everything about the last two weeks that there was even a sense of gratefulness just for something resembling a contest.