Friday, February 17, 2012

Cook and Finn Do It Again

Alastair Cook once again won the toss and elected to bat first at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium for the 2nd one day international of the series, a match which the Greens needed to win in order to stand any chance of winning the series. It was a crucial toss to win. England went unchanged. Pakistan made 3 changes with Azhar Ali coming in for Asad Shafiq, Abdur Rehman taking the place of the out of sorts Shoaib Malik and Aizaz Cheema replacing Wahab Riaz as the 2nd seamer to partner Umar Gul.

Once again Cook and KP put on a solid opening stand of above 50 runs without losing any wicket in the first 10 overs, before Saeed Ajmal struck in his first over and the 16th of the innings by getting the better of the flamboyant KP with an off break and KP didn’t bother referring as it looked pretty adjacent. Cook and Trott got together for the 2nd wicket as often is the case with England and milked the bowling around with efficient strike rotation before Aizaz Cheema was brought back for his 2nd spell and provided the breakthrough as the 2011 ICC cricketer of the year departed, edging behind to make shift arrangement, Umar Akmal.

Bopara and Cook put on another significant stand for the 3rd wicket just like they did on Monday evening before Afridi broke the partnership in his 3rd spell towards the latter stages of the innings as Cook was caught and bowled with some extra bounce by the Pakistani all rounder after silencing his critics with back to back centuries. Morgan lasted the duration for an unbeaten knock and got some form under his belt. There were not many boundaries in his cameo except for a mighty blow all the way into the leg side stands in the 49th over of the innings against Saeed Ajmal. Bopara reached his 2nd half century in 2 innings before being dismissed by an off cutter on the final delivery of the innings to give Cheema his 2nd wicket. Pakistan required 9 less than what they did on Monday evening to win the match, but were hoping Azhar Ali’s inclusion would provide some stability at the top of the order which was badly lacking in the last one. Alastair Cook was once again the highlight of England’s innings as the left hander bossed the Pakistani bowling.

Pakistan fell 20 runs short of the target as the Greens were bowled out for 230 in the 49th over with Imran Farhat and Misbah ul Haq top scoring. Azhar Ali made an impressive 32 batting at one down and showed a calm head in anchoring the chase for the power houses down the order before Samit Patel bowled him just before the batting powerplay was enforced on them. Both Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi showed potential, but were dismissed at critical junctions in the match when they were looking dangerous and threatening to run away with the show. Earlier Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Farhat put on over 50 for the 1st wicket for the 4th time when they have been batting together as a pair. For England Steve Finn was once again the shining light with 4 wickets as the Middlesex bowler is currently the leading wicket taker in the series at the half way point.

Pakistan will be hoping to take inspiration from 2006 where they were 2-0 up in 5 match series with one match in Wales washed out due to bad weather, but England came back with 2 wins to level the series 2-2. The next ODI is in Dubai on Saturday as is the final one. Misbah ul Haq will be hoping this time that he wins the toss and can bat first for a change. Samit Patel has voiced his hopes of England completing a whitewash on Pakistan in this series as Cook's side will be looking to wrap up the series come Saturday. England will return to Abu Dhabi for the final time in the tour during the 3rd T20 international on Monday 27th February, but for now the action moves on to Dubai where Pakistan will be hoping and expecting better things.

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