Eoin Morgan produced his second superb century in consecutive ODI appearances at the Rose Bowl, before Graeme Swann bamboozled Pakistan's middle-order with another top-class display of offspin, as England signed off for the 2010 season with their sixth consecutive series win across all formats this summer. Despite a strong start in their pursuit of a stiff target of 257, Pakistan's challenge tailed off into the September night, as Swann and the England seamers overcame a ropey first ten overs to secure a handsome 121-run victory with 13 overs to spare.
The victory also secured a hard-fought 3-2 series scoreline, and given all the off-field shenanigans of the past week, with accusations of match-fixing flying like the fists in the Lord's nets on Monday, that result was especially sweet for an England team who have already vowed to clear their names in court after the inflammatory comments from the chairman of the PCB, Ijaz Butt, in the wake of the third game at The Oval.
However, England were made to wrestle for the ascendancy throughout their own innings and for long periods of the reply, before the challenge was effectively snuffed out in Swann's fifth over, the 28th of Pakistan's innings. Having already struck with his fifth delivery of the match to bowl Fawad Alam for 1, he followed up with two more in two balls to extract Mohammad Yousuf for 20 and Shahid Afridi for a duck, and came agonisingly close to a hat-trick as Abdul Razzaq propped forward to another tweaker, only for the ball to balloon into the hands of short leg without touching the gloves on the way.
Swann finished the match with figures of 3 for 26 in nine overs to take his series tally to 11 in five matches, and he was also responsible for the run-out of Umar Gul, who was called through for a suicidal single as the ball bobbled to short leg, and was beaten to the punch by two feet. The end, when it came, was rapid. Saeed Ajmal succumbed to another lame run-out eight balls later, before the coup de grace was delivered in the same over by Stuart Broad, who had earlier removed Hafeez and the dangerous Asad Shafiq in consecutive deliveries to launch England's bowling fightback.
Swann, however, remained the stand-out bowler. He didn't concede a single boundary in the course of his night's work, which was especially noteworthy given the slew of fours with which Kamran Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez had launched their night's work. Between them, they knocked off 11 in nine overs as Pakistan romped to 57 for 0 against some wayward new-ball fare, but thereafter they didn't reach the ropes until Paul Collingwood was paddled over the shoulder by Umar Akmal in the 33rd over, some 139 balls later. His brother Kamran was Pakistan's main aggressor with a hard-hitting 41, but with the score on 80 he was adjudged lbw to Luke Wright despite a massive inside-edge onto his pads.
The day's outstanding batsman, however, was Morgan. Against Australia in June, he had announced himself as a one-day cricketer of the highest class by guiding England to victory on this very ground with an unbeaten century, his first in the country after a similarly cool-headed 110 not out in Dhaka back in February. Both of those performances, however, came while batting second. This time, his challenge was to chart an unknown course through some seriously choppy waters, and by the end of the contest, his methodical brilliance could be seen in all its glory.
Morgan struck eight fours and a six in the course of his innings, two of which came in the space of three balls from Gul as he accelerated past his fifty from 58 deliveries with a cut past backward point and a pull through square leg. His last 54 runs came from 43 balls, and in the course of his innings he offered just the one clear-cut chance, when Yousuf at long-on back-pedalled towards the rope to take a fine catch over his shoulder, only to throw the ball back into play as he toppled over the boundary's edge, and ended up turning his ankle in the process.
Morgan finished his innings with the sort of flourish that sets the finest one-day batsmen apart from the rest, as he battered Saeed Ajmal for 19 off the final over to bring up his hundred and carry England past 250. But in between whiles, the going for England was much tougher than that. Led by Shoaib, who belied his 35 years to claim 3 for 40 in a furiously wholehearted performance, Pakistan took control of the opening exchanges as England limped to 96 for 3 in 25 overs - literally in Ian Bell's case, as he required a runner after tweaking his groin mid-innings. To make matters worse, Collingwood was forced to retire on 5 after succumbing to a migraine, and lay down in a darkened room before returning to make a gutsy 47, his best ODI innings in eight attempts.
Amid all this, Morgan was left to guide the tempo of the innings with his nerveless assurance, first in a 93-run stand for the fifth wicket with Collingwood, who survived a massive let-off when Gul nailed him on the pad on 28, and then through his superb eye for an opportunity in the closing overs of the innings, as he and Tim Bresnan snaffled 48 runs in the final four overs.
The day started as promisingly for England as it finished, with Strauss winning a vital toss that enabled them to avoid the challenge of chasing under the lights. He then built on that advantage with two fours in Abdul Razzaq's first over, and though his partner Steve Davies repeated the dose one over later, Mohammad Hafeez lured him out of the crease with his fourth delivery of the day, for Kamran Akmal to complete a simple stumping with his victim not even in the frame.
That brought Jonathan Trott out to the middle, Pakistan's new bête noire following his altercation with Wahab Riaz in the nets at Lord's, and he was greeted with a raucous chorus of boos from a vocal and passionate Pakistani crowd. After scores of 2 and 4 in his previous two innings of the series, Trott was under pressure from the scoreboard as well as the crowd, but he could do nothing about the ball that eventually did for him. Working up a considerable head of steam for a man who had been labouring with a side strain, Shoaib bowled him through the gate with a glorious nip-backer, to leave England struggling on 46 for 2.
One over later, and things got worse for England. Strauss had picked up two fifties and a hundred in his previous four innings of the series, and he showed his eye for an opportunity when he slotted Razzaq over long-on for six - the 22nd of his one-day career, and his 13th this year alone. But Shoaib's unrelenting line and length soon did for him, as he grazed an edge through to Akmal and trooped off for 25, his lowest ODI score in eight appearances.
At the end of the 15 overs of bowling Powerplays, England were awkwardly placed on 59 for 3, whereupon Collingwood - who had already been visited by the physio, Kirk Russell - decided that a darkened room was the best place for him as his migraine kicked in with a vengeance. When Bell went in the groin three overs later, England were facing all manner of problems, but he and Morgan - who made a fine hundred on this ground against Australia in June - dug them out of immediate danger with a measured alliance of 47 in 12 overs. That stand ended when Bell was bowled off the inside-edge by Afridi, but Morgan was only just getting started.