A last ball victory for Pakistan

The 2nd contest between England and Pakistan in the NatWest Series was crucial for both teams. England needed a victory to break the string of 7 successive losses that equalled their worst sequence in ODIs from back in 1993. A victory for Pakistan would take them closer to the finals.

In front of packed house at the Lord's, Pakistan defeated England by 2 runs in a nail-biting thriller that dragged on to the last ball. This game too, like the last match, that Australia won over England in the last over, deserves a mention in the list of one-day cricket's most exciting contests.

Picking up the strands midway, after a dismal start, Pakistan did end up with a competitive score of 242. With a superb innings of 81, Yousuf Youhana was the star of Pakistan's innings and was given excellent support by Younis khan (41), Shahid Afridi (30) and Azhar Mahmood (27*).

Pakistan had high hopes of winning this tough encounter but there stood Marcus Trescothick, who almost single handedly caused the delay, thrill and excitement. He opened the innings and almost carried the bat had he been not out in the last over. He played a magnificent innings of 137 with all the intentions of denying Pakistan the great victory.

Had Trescothick not shown the determination to stay at the wicket, Pakistan could have demolished England much earlier and for a much smaller total. He played like a giant and dragged the game to the last ball.

With Saeed Anwar absent due to a family problem, Pakistan opened with Shahid Afridi and Saleem Elahi who departed after scoring 15 leaving Pakistan with a poor start of 28 for 1. Afridi, however, continued with his `hit out - get out' style, hitting a mighty six off Mullally over long on in the 12th over. Trying another one a little later he flicked Andy Caddick to Trescothick at slip after collecting 30 crisp runs.

Bowling a magnificent line, Andy Caddick struck again, shattering Inzamam-ul-Haq's stumps, out for a duck and clinching 2 quick wickets in one over. One cannot help but criticise the way Inzamam left his stumps fully exposed, certainly not expected of a batsman of Inzamam's class especially after his irresponsible performance in the last game against Australia. At 60 for 3 Pakistan was not in a happy position.

The team now depended entirely on Yousuf Youhana and Younis Khan, who did perform to the task thrust on them. With a formidable 80 runs partnership between them they raised Pakistan's score to 140 when Younis made his exit. He skied one to Knight in the covers off Cork after scoring invaluable 41 runs.

Youhana in full command completed his 50 in 89 balls and joined by a resolute Rashid Latif was now trying to speed up the unsatisfactory scoring rate. The spectators were finally entertained to a flurry of shots to the boundary. But, in the process Latif was bowled by Ealham for a useful 23.

With only 7 overs left in the kitty, the effort was to pile up maximum runs. Razzaq, playing a sky-high wild shot to long on, was caught by Gough off Mullally reducing Pakistan to 195 for 6. The 200 of the innings had consumed 44 overs and Pakistan was not anywhere near a commanding position.

Youhana, the chief architect of Pakistan's innings was gradually running short of balls to complete his century. With no choice but slog, he offered a high catch to Owais Shah off Mullally after playing a magnificent innings of 81.

The end in sight, it was now the tail enders' show. With a breezy 27 not out by Azhar Mahmood, Pakistan ended at 242 for 8. The trio of speedsters, Caddick, Gough and Mullally shared 2 wickets each.

It looked as if Pakistan was 20-25 runs short of a competitive total but to its good luck England started dismally. Except for Trescothick, who held on grimly after being dropped at 5 by Youhana, we saw Nick Knight (1), Alec Stewart (4) and Michael Vaughan (0) back in the pavilion with the score board showing only 26.

Extremely tight and tidy bowling by Pakistan put England under such tremendous pressure that they were only able to score 79 in 25 overs.

All of a sudden the game changed. Brakes that the speedsters had applied on the batsmen were released when the spinners came in to bowl. A series of fours and sixes hit both by Trescothick and Shah brought England back into the game. Scoring at the rate of more than 10 runs per over they inflicted heavy punishment on Shoaib Malik and Afridi.

With England collecting 150 runs in 33 overs, the tables were almost turned on Pakistan. While Trescothick hoisted his fabulous 100, Shah also completed his fighting 50. Both of them were in such command of the game, the bowlers almost looked helpless. The fielders who had looked perfect in earlier part of the innings started fumbling and shoulders dropped.

The anti-climax came for England when Owais Shah was run out after a brilliant innings of 62. Ben Hollioake who came in next, was out in a peculiar manner. After dabbing a ball down he went for a run but the ball bounced off the pitch high and came back into the stumps. England was 196 for 4.

The game now took a crucial turn-about again. Except for Trescothick holding one end, a procession started from the other. Ben Hollioake, Dominic Cork and Mark Ealham having departed in quick succession England was down to 206 for 7. It was a cruel battle between bat and the ball.

Trapped lbw by Razzaq, Gough brought England down to 218 for 8. Caddick was now keeping Trescothick company at one end and was the last hope for England. With excitement rising with every act in the field England required 24 runs in 18 balls and then 19 in 12 balls getting closer with every ball. The turning point came when in the last over, Trescothick trying a big hit, was caught at mid-wicket by Shahid Afridi and England down to 137 for 9.

The last pair, Caddick and Mullally needed to score 6 runs in 4 balls to win. A comedy of errors occurred when the tension even got to the umpire who gave England the advantage of a wide ball that had hit the gloves. A heat of the moment decision appealed against by the Pakistan team and even criticized by the commentators. The Pakistan fielders were on a high and continued with their magic of restricting the batsmen from scoring runs.

The game melted down to the last ball with Andy Caddick needing to snatch 3 runs off Saqlain Mushtaq. The option for him was either to hit a six or pierce through the defensive field. In attempting such a shot, he was stumped by Rashid Latif. A nail biting finish that Pakistan won by 2 runs. Waqar, Saqlain and Razzaq shared 2 wickets each.