England 142 for 1 (Malan 68*, Crawley 58*) beat Pakistan 141 (Zaman 47, Mahmood 4-42) by nine wickets
England have enjoyed many impressive ODI performances in recent years: victories from the jaws of defeat; victories in locations where they used to be uncommon; victories in major global events. But, given the drama of the last few days and the challenges with which they were confronted, this win - by nine wickets with more than 28 overs to spare - may prove as satisfying as most of them.
Certainly it demonstrated England's remarkable strength in depth - in ODI cricket, at least - and a resilience which bodes well for the challenges ahead.
Despite being forced to make 11 changes to the side that played against Sri Lanka only four days ago, England's second string proved more than a match for a Pakistan team which had lost only one of their 12 most recent ODIs and is currently ranked No. 3 in the World Cup Super League. To defeat such an accomplished side by such a margin (in terms of deliveries to spare, 169, England had never inflicted such a large defeat upon Pakistan) in such circumstances can only be viewed as deeply impressive.
It has been 36 years since England put out a side with so few caps (135, since you asked; Ben Stokes accounting for 99 of them and James Vince 17 more). But after the extent of the Covid outbreak in the England camp became clear on Monday, the ECB was obliged to name an entirely new squad of players and support staff to ensure this series could go ahead. They had just one training session together before heading into this game.
Ultimately, there were five new caps in the England side, the most since the ODI against Ireland in May 2015 that ended Peter Moores' tenure as coach. Top-order batters Zak Crawley and Phil Salt, wicketkeeper John Simpson, seam-bowling allrounder Lewis Gregory and fast bowler Brydon Carse all made their debuts; while Crawley and Gregory have played Test cricket and T20Is respectively, the other three had no experience of international cricket.
But it was Saqib Mahmood, who in playing his fifth ODI was the third most experienced member of the side, who made the early inroads. Bowling at a brisk pace (above 87mph/140kph at times), he hit an excellent probing length and generated just enough movement to beat or catch edges.
Imam-ul-Haq played across the first ball of the series - Simpson, England's new keeper, and Stokes, their new captain, vindicated in calling for a review - with Babar Azam following two balls later. By the time Mahmood went round the wicket and trapped left-handed debutant Saud Shakeel with one that nipped in, Pakistan were 26 for 4. It was a passage of play which effectively defined the game. Mahmood was later, quite rightly, named as the player of the match.
Amid England's chaos, it might be overlooked that Pakistan hadn't enjoyed perfect preparation, either. They had been limited to intra-squad warm-up matches and were, perhaps, unfortunate enough to find themselves batting first on a surface offering just a fraction of seam movement.
So, while the scorecard may look ugly, you might spare a thought for Azam, who received an excellent ball which was angled in and forced a stroke only to then leave him a fraction to take the edge. Mohammad Rizwan, who also received a beauty which was angled in and left him, could also be forgiven for wondering he could have done about the delivery which dismissed him.
For a while, when Fakhar Zaman and Sohaib Maqsood were together, it looked as if Pakistan may be able to rebuild. Zaman, putting away anything overpitched or short with panache, looked in glorious touch with Maqsood producing one ferocious cut for six off the distinctly sharp Carse. Together they put on 53 for the fifth wicket.
But when Maqsood was run out, attempting to regain his ground having been sent back by Zaman, Pakistan's hopes of setting a challenging total disappeared with him. Zaman, slicing a drag-down from Matt Parkinson to backward point, soon followed. Mahmood returned to have Faheem Ashraf, cramped for room, fencing outside off stump and finished with 4 for 42 from his 10 overs. Those figures, impressive though they are, didn't flatter him at all.
Underlining England's strength in depth, it was England's fifth four-wicket haul (or better) in their four most recent ODIs following Chris Woakes (4 for 18 in the first ODI against Sri Lanka), Sam Curran and David Willey (5 for 48 and 4 for 64 in the second) and Tom Curran (4 for 35 in the third). It is only the second time they have taken four-wicket hauls (or better) in four consecutive ODIs. It was also the first time England had bowled out a side for under 150 in an ODI since they dismissed Ireland for 126 in May 2017.
Not for a moment did Pakistan threaten to defend their paltry total. While Shaheen Shah Afridi produced a threatening opening spell, persuading Salt to edge to slip, Dawid Malan and Zak Crawley put on an unbroken stand of 120 for the second-wicket to seal a crushing victory.
Malan, in particular, looked in sublime form. He produced a series of sweetly-timed drives and, while his half-century (50 balls, with seven fours) came up with an under-edged reverse-sweep, it was a rare mis-step in an impressively assured performance. He is going to prove tough to leave out of any England side.
Crawley was barely less impressive. While he was, on 1, defeated by a perfect Hasan Ali yorker, it came from a free-hit. His half-century, brought up with a gorgeous back-foot force through point, took only 44 balls and demonstrated once again that his is a talent to be nurtured.
It wasn't a perfect display from England - not quite, anyway. Ali, on 1, was badly missed by Malan at deep midwicket, while a much tougher chance (an under-edge off a slog-sweep) offered by Shadab Khan, on 6, was missed by Simpson behind the stumps. Parkinson was the unfortunate bowler on both occasions with Shadab going on to make 30; one of only two men to reach 20 in the innings. Parkinson, at mid-on, also made a bit of a mess of a chance offered by Afridi on 10.
But these are minor quibbles. After a chaotic few days, Ben's Babes produced a performance which may have unnerved some of that first-choice ODI side as much as it did Pakistan.