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Rest assured everyone, as you may know by now England have secured their position at the top of the table after finally winning a Test match this winter. A thrilling 8-wicket victory saw many twist and turns, as England fought hard for their title, with wonderful results. As both Strauss and Jayawardene made their way to the middle, every expectant fan held their hopes high, and as Sri Lanka chose to bat, they soon looked to trouble England.

It wasn’t a very easy-ride for the Lankans initially though, losing Thirimanne and the experienced Dilshan and Sangakkara for a collective 22 runs, showcased Anderson’s sheer talent with the new ball. Three down for 30 would have worried any captain, Mahela however, is not your ordinary captain. Along with Samaraweera and Mathews, in two fantastic partnerships of 124 and 62 respectively, Jayawardene struck his way to his third century of the series and propelled Sri Lanka to 216 before his dismissal. His wicket was a timely one although reviewing the decision, Jayawardene was unable to reverse the LBW appeal, which saw Swann straightening one to hit smack on the knee roll. The turning point had been made, and no longer could Sri Lanka depend upon their captain for stability, as they slipped from 216-5 to 275 all out, an addition of just 59 runs, Swann walking away with figures of 4-75.

Switch-hit causes controversy as KP ton outshines Jayawardene’s

England’s innings was not without its glitches either. A better start could not have been made, with the captain and vice-captain leading the way with a 122-run partnership, 61 and 94 respectively, Cook narrowly missing out on a century of his own.  With the foundations already set, it paved the way for Trott and Pietersen to edge England closer to Sri Lanka’s first innings total with England on only 62 runs behind.  A steady 64 from Trott enabled fans to witness KP at his best, playing his natural game. A blistering 151 runs were scored in just 165 balls nearly a run a ball (in a Test match), along with an astonishing 100 runs accomplished in boundaries. I honestly don’t think I could say I have seen Pietersen play a better innings than we saw on Day 2 of this Test match, he himself not letting up on the celebrations after breaking that 100 mark.

It wasn’t all plain sailing for Pietersen though, as the infamous switch-hit made a return – in glorious style I must add – but not to Dilshan’s approval. Pulling up mid run-up in two successive balls, Dilshan wanted to prevent this notorious shot from recurring, annoyance from the England crowd spread quickly as KP’s innings was momentarily halted. Landing himself with a warning from the umpires you could see Pietersen was clearly unimpressed. Yet this only seemed to spur him on as he raced to the 150 mark before being dismissed one run later after an unsuccessful appeal to reverse a Herath LBW. At 411-6 at the time of KP’s dismissal, England managed 460 all out, with a comprehensive lead of 185.

Swann sends Sri Lanka into a spin

So, with Sri Lanka needing something special to enable them a match-winning total, they somehow did not predict the damage England’s number one spinner would induce. Decent scores from Jayawardene (64), Samaraweera (47) and Mathews (46) yet again, the Sri Lankan batsmen were unable to conjure up that much-needed contribution. Swann tore through the Lankans’ line up snaring the prized wickets of the experienced Dilshan, Sangakkara and captain Jayawardene all caught, at slip, behind to the ‘keeper, and short leg respectively. Whilst Samaraweera, Randiv and Prasanna Jayawardene were all superbly bowled, as Swann beat the bat on all three occasions, his raw bowling talent truly highlighted. Along with Finn, Anderson and Patel, Sri Lanka were dismissed for 278, which meant for England they only had a mere 94 runs to chase in order to secure a test match win. As Swann reaped match figures of 10-181, he was the key bowler who helped England to edge closer to victory.

All that was needed now was 94 runs, and we could all delight in finally seeing England defeat the subcontinent conditions. With Jayawardene opening with 2 spinners, Strauss and Trott fell early for 0 and 5 respectively, leaving it up to Cook and KP to take their team over the line. For Cook, he struck his way to 49 setting the foundations up for KP to once again supremely strike the ball over the boundary rope for 2 magnificent sixes, powering England to a sweet and long awaited victory. In a thrilling show of pure cricketing talent, either side showed off their particular talents, but as England came out on top, they didn’t just level the series, but also saved themselves from humiliation. Luckily, England managed to stay at the top of the International Test rankings, which would have seen them fall to second below South Africa; fortunately, this was not the case.

We must wait until May until the England lads are in action again, until then we can all relax and enjoy the peaceful County Championship! :D

Photo Credit: Getty Images (espncricinfo.com)

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On what would have been the last day of the Test between England and Sri Lanka, I find myself reminiscing about another England defeat, and an opportunity missed. In a struggling position, England had to pull out all the stops to be able to pull off a remarkable run chase in subcontinent conditions. They did manage to get within a small margin of victory, but once again, the batsmen failed to take advantage of a decent start.

So where did I leave it last, well Sri Lanka ended Day 2 in an uncompromising position on 84-5, but still with a lead of 209 runs. With only 5 more wickets for England, it should have been over and done with pretty early on in the day. What was not forecast though was the gritty innings of Jayawardene, this time Prasanna, not Mahela, which saw Sri Lanka climb to a great 214 all out by which time saw English bowlers flagging. Unable to restrain the tail-enders, whatever option was tried, the wickets were just not falling. Don’t get me wrong, once Chandimal’s wicket fell to Panesar caught at slip, Randiv and Herath soon followed both to Swann, with a beauty coming round the wicket to the latter to have the ball crashing into his stumps. Eight down and England were in a fantastic position to claim the last two, to reduce their deficit. However, with P. Jayawardene still at the crease, Welegedara and Lakmal, individually played a huge supporting role as Jayawardene passed the half-century mark. But it wasn’t as if we didn’t have the chances to dismiss the batsmen, a costly no-ball from Broad, and an easy run-out opportunity were missed, vital causes of Sri Lanka’s final deficit of339, meaning England had to face a mammoth task of chasing 340 to secure a Test match win. Optimism was surely needed at this point, we are currently struggling for runs, as if I haven’t mentioned this before, but I still kept the faith that we could (with very hard graft) achieve the total. And let me tell you, even though we lost both openers within the space of 19 overs for a collective total of 42 between them, finishing up on 111-2 exceeded my expectations. Trott and KP kept composure, and left England on Nelson at the end of Day 3; Trott especially with a steady 40 runs already acquired.

229 runs were needed over the last two days of the Test to ensure an England victory, which now was looking even more possible. Although Pietersen returned to the pavilion with a mere one run added to his overnight score, and Bell had a doubtful umpire decision go against him for 13 runs, all was not lost. I must say though that shot selection has not been our forte on these overseas tours, a chip to midwicket from KP, and Bell pulled out the deadly sweep shot… please guys just forget the sweep shot for the time being! Anyway, this left England on 152-4, Trott joined at the crease by Prior which set up a partnership that witnessed England climb ever closer to that daunting score, and Trott slave away to claim his 7th Test century in the 86th over. This is what England needed, a centurion like Sri Lanka had in their captain, Mahela, in the first innings. So with two batsmen settled in nicely, it was down to these pair to help England over the line, but as we are coming accustomed to, somehow England have a tendency that if they lose one wicket, they lose them all. This time, it was the turn of Prior to spring out that sweep shot, only having it caught at short leg, making way for Patel to take his second chance in Test cricket. Seven overs later, and with spin in full flow, Herath, with four wickets already to his name was not content, and happily had Patel skew one to Dilshan at cover, England 252-6. Trott still standing tall at this time didn’t stay around for long, with increasing pressure all England needed was 88 runs with four wickets remaining, Randiv managed to have the prized wicket of Trott caught at leg sip for 112. And there it was, the moment the game changed.

The lower order of Broad, Swann, Anderson and Panesar collected 11 runs between them, the former being not out at the end of the innings, as the three latter batsmen all fell to spin. Swann was Herath’s 6th and final wicket of the Test as he collected a match haul of 12-171, fantastic figures for a spinner still not highly regarded as world-class on the International stage. England could only manage 264 losing by a margin of 75 runs, their fourth consecutive Test defeat. To make matters worse, if they lose the final game commencing on 3rd April, then England will suffer the devastating loss of their World Number 1 status. I know that I am not alone in saying this, but I will be behind them 100 per cent, as they need to maintain that number 1 ranking as we all know they are capable of achieving.

It was unfortunate that England couldn’t capitalise on their decent start, from 111-2, England looked to have it in the bag, what a difference a day can make. I suppose it is in the makeup of Test cricket though as we should all be expecting the unexpected. There are highlights to be taken from this game though we do show signs of brilliance once again, namely Trott and Swann.

Who impressed over the last 2 days?

Jonathan Trott – The star of England’s 2nd innings, although unable to sustain his form post his century, Trott led the way for England and gave them a glimpse of hope as to achieving victory. Without Trott’s contribution, I can say for sure that the margin England lost by would have been far greater, all he needs to now is carry his form into the last Test of the series.

Rangana Herath – As aforementioned, Herath isn’t widely accredited as one of the world’s greatest spinners. However, with a haul of 12 wickets, not only did he highlight England’s continued weakness against spin in the subcontinent, but only on 7 other occasions have bowling figures exceeded Herath’s. His performance means he is only the 5th Sri Lankan to pick up 10+ wickets in a match.

So that concludes this first Test match, which sees Sri Lanka take a 1-0 lead, and with only one more game to play, it is all or nothing for England. With one bowler down, having announced Stuart Broad will not be fit for the last Test, another bowler will be making his way into the side; will it be Finn or Bresnan? We are yet to know, but I think that all that matters at the moment is England put in their best performance to seal a victory from Tuesday onwards!

Photo Credit: AFP (espncricinfo.com)

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The music, the cheerleaders, the excessive boundaries… they are all here, which means the T20 series is now up and running. Actually don’t get me started on the first two; the less said about them the better.

As people always say, cricket is usually a batsman’s game, today however, defied this theory as it was the turn of the bowlers to star in a close-run T20, which saw Pakistan eventually beat England by a margin of 8 runs. With Bopara fit to play, Cook didn’t feature, along with Hales who unfortunately missed out on a place, whilst the two young guns Buttler and Bairstow featured in the middle order. So with everything in place, Broad elected to bowl and despite an expensive start from Finn and Dernbach, the bowlers, namely Swann and Broad, pulled it back. Reducing Pakistan to 144 with a late boundary surge from Misbah, it was a decent chase, however, it would have been far trickier to achieve if it wasn’t for one man in particular…

  • Graeme Swann – Not having the best of starts, dropping a crucial catch and then miss fielding the ball for 4, Swann needed to up his game. The run-out of Shafiq for 19 soon spurred him on, and so with the ball in his hand Swann was keen to impress on this tour. Hafeez was the first of Swann’s ‘victims’, slog-sweeping to Bairstow at deep-midwicket, just two balls after Shafiq’s run-out. In a spot of bother at 65-3, Swann starred in a fantastic over that reduced Pakistan’s chances of a reasonable total. With the dangerous Afridi at the crease, pitching it on leg stump Afridi hit it straight to Morgan at midwicket for an easy chance. What was to come was even better as Umar Akmal; the second danger-man departed with a duck merely 3 balls later, Dernbach takes an impressive catch running in from long off to give Swann his third. A double wicket-maiden for Swann left him with excellent T20 figures of 3-13 going at just 3.25 – amazing!

So with England needing 145 to win it was the turn of the batsmen to do their job. KP and Kieswetter were the men to open, and a great start was made reaching 41 before the first wicket fell. Pietersen was on great form smacking 33 from 21 balls; however, Afridi despite failing with the bat removed KP, which slowly led to England’s downfall. Kieswetter and Morgan followed suit, both failing to defeat the spin of Hafeez, Kieswetter’s the bizarre dismissal of the night after he returned to his old ways of moving away from the stumps, hence unable to reach the ball. After the World T20 when Kieswetter first entertained us with this shot, I certainly didn’t think we would see it again! It was from hereon in, with England on 80-3, that the innings unravelled…

  • Umar Gul – The destructive death bowler, Gul, returned to the side today and definitely made an impression. First removing Bopara, England’s vital cog at this current moment on 39 from 32 was bowled with a leg-stump yorker, potentially thwarted England’s chances. But with Buttler and Bairstow at the crease, everyone was sure things would go to plan. Yet did we know that 2 overs following Bopara’s dismissal and in close range of victory, Buttler, being inventive with his shot selection, unluckily hit one straight to Ajmal at short third man. Well England fans weren’t expecting this kind of display, still, our batting line up was capable of crossing the line. Gul hadn’t stopped there though, he wasn’t happy until he had Patel for a golden duck plumb LBW, shattering England’s chances as they stood on 121-6 in need of 24 from 15 balls. With figures of 3-18 and an economy of 4.50, Gul was the stand out performer for Pakistan when they needed it most.

Bairstow and Swann were unable to smack the winning runs, leaving England with an unlucky defeat when they were on target for yet another victory. With two games left to secure the series win, England have to dramatically improve their game plan if they don’t want to be whitewashed for the second time this tour. Hopefully though it won’t come to that and England will maintain their winning form from the ODI series, but it is just a matter of time.

After a game dominated by the bowlers it will be good to see what the second T20 brings… roll on Saturday, let’s see if England can conjure up a magical win in order to level the series! :D

Photo Credit: ECB (ecb.co.uk)

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Yesss! This is the moment we have been longing for, a series whitewash over in the UAE. After the humiliating Test defeat, the England boys can finally hold their heads high in a 4-0 victory that was full of outstanding talent from start to finish. With Pakistan posting a decent total of 237, England for the 4th consecutive time bowled Pakistan out, this is the first time England have ever bowled their opposition out in every game of a series! This just highlights how fantastic our bowling unit has been. Then we had the run chase, despite the early wicket of Cook for 4, Pietersen gave everyone another master class as he stormed towards his successive ODI century. With 4 balls to spare, and 6 wickets down, England managed to cross the line in style to take that wonderful series victory.

However, the team that were victorious today was somewhat different in many ways. With niggles for Swann and Bopara, and the experienced pace attack of Anderson and Broad in need of rest before the T20s, it was the perfect time for Cook to make changes in the team. Bringing in debutants Jos Buttler and Danny Briggs, along with Bresnan and Dernbach reappearing in the side, these four had a great opportunity to take England to a superb victory. Which they certainly did, winning by 4 wickets and taking a lot of pleasure in all that they had achieved over the series. As always I have picked the players who I felt today made the most vital contributions to England’s win…

  • Jade Dernbach – Definitely the star with ball as he made his way back into the England side for the first time this tour. Striking with the second ball of his over removing Hafeez, Jade later removed fellow opener Azhar Ali breaking the crucial partnership, when it looked as though Pakistan were on course for a large total. But Dernbach made his most significant contribution in the latter half of the game, removing the ever-dangerous Misbah on 46, along with Ajmal in the space of two balls to conclude the innings, finishing with 4-45.
  • Kevin Pietersen – Well what can I say? Firstly, he does not get an ODI century for 3 years, then his gets two in a row. This time the better of the two saw KP rack up 130 runs, his best ever ODI score, complied of twelve 4s and two 6’s, a purely fascinating innings to watch. With England in a spot of bother on 68-4, KP stuck in for the long haul and took England virtually all the way. Unfortunately hitting one straight to point with only 2 runs needed, KP couldn’t believe the shot he had played; nevertheless, he was pivotal in England’s win.
  • Craig Kieswetter – With runs needed on this tour, Kieswetter pulled it of the bag when England required it most. England were stranded on 68-3 when things went from bad to worse as unlucky Buttler fell for a duck on his ODI debut. With a partnership the only viable option, Kiesy took it in his stride with a valuable innings of 43, as he and Pietersen safely took England to 177-5 and within touching distance of victory. Kieswetter unfortunately suffered from a run-out, departing 7 runs off his half-century. Despite this, Kieswetter played the supporting role for KP, and made a great contribution of a well-deserved win.

How can I not also have my performers of the series?

BatsmanAlastair Cook – Who else? MOTS in what was a fabulous series for Cook, including 2 centuries, and pure captaincy talent that saw his side unbeatable in this ODI duel. Announced also today that Cook will be staying with the side for the T20 series due to Bopara’s niggle, it is sure to say that Cook is currently in the form of his life, and long may it continue!

BowlerSteven Finn – With nothing but impressive performances this series, Finn was the leading wicket taker with 13 under his belt. Another 2 wickets today for just 39 further accentuates my point that Finn has grown so much over the past few months, and still continues to develop, a test place as I said before, is surely on the cards again?

And finally how did the debutants fare… well it was a little bit of a mixed bag:

  • Danny Briggs (Hampshire) – This was Briggs’ first international call-up to the senior side, and with England bowling first Briggs was soon facing the expectation of many. I have been keeping an eye on Briggs for a couple of years now, and it must be said that his left-arm spin is pretty impressive. Hoping he would earn a place sometime this tour, I was elated when he finally made his debut today replacing Swann. Finishing with an economy rate of 3.90 from his 10… well it just shows the talent Briggs has at present. To top it off Briggs debut could not have been better, than when he took his first international wicket – that of Umar Akmal, caught at long off by Dernbach for 12! Also obtaining the wicket of Shoaib Malik LBW for 23, it really wrapped up a remarkable performance by the young debutant, one that will certainly be a memory to treasure.
  • Jos Buttler (Somerset) – Now to the opposite end of the spectrum unfortunately for Buttler. When it came to Buttler’s turn, coming in at 68-3, we really needed his supreme batting skills. With every England fan looking forward to his arrival at the crease, Buttler could only manage 2 balls before he left, pushing one to short leg for 0. The expectation of Buttler coming in to rescue the England side had been dampened. This being his ODI debut – having already played T20 cricket for England – it could not have been worse for Buttler with a duck to his name. You could only feel sorry for his disappointment, as everyone was willing him on from the start, but you have your ups and downs in your cricketing career, be it domestic or international. All Buttler can do is come back stronger when he gains his second chance.

So there we have it, a fantastic day’s cricket as I have said so many times this series. It really has encapsulated everything I adore about the game, and I couldn’t have wished for a better result, a 4-0 whitewash! Nothing beats the feeling in cricket of a whitewash, and the boys had better celebrate in style, as they fully deserve it. The performances we saw by the England boys were spot on time and time again, the T20 series that is approaching on Thursday I am sure will also provide superb cricket as always.

Once again, England could not have given this series any more than they did, full credit to them! :D

No champers though :) Photo Credit: Getty Images (espncricinfo.com)

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Could it get much better? Well yes, a series whitewash would be the icing on the cake. Nevertheless, for now, England can sit back and enjoy their latest, comprehensive victory that sees England fans once again surprised by their ODI form. For the third successive time I cannot compliment England’s performance further, they pulled it out of the bag once more, as they won by a wonderful 9 wickets. Remaining unchanged England started off in the field for the first time this series, as Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat. Undeterred (well slightly at the beginning) the bowlers reduced Pakistan to 222 within the 50 overs, a total that England found easy, well more than easy to chase! What seems to be coming the usual now, Finn and Cook stood out today, their consistent performances showcasing England’s talent. Who were the stars of today’s victory then…

  • Steven Finn – I cannot praise Finn more than I have done already, another superb performance today by the big man with another three wickets under his belt. Making the early breakthrough, Finn snatched the wickets of openers Farhat and Hafeez, as he sailed through to claim his final wicket, Adnan Akmal, later on in Pakistan’s innings. The most astonishing element of Finn’s bowling though has to be his economy rate, from his 10 overs going for 2.40 is amazing… the limited overs format suits Finn down to the ground. Surely now his brilliant skill must be rewarded with another chance in the Test team?
  • Stuart Broad – Unlikely to be one of the top performers if you just went off the back of his first over; going for 16 runs it wasn’t what England were hoping for. Including a wicket from a no ball, Broad would have to patch it up quickly. Following up with successive wicket maidens however, shall we say, was just a slight improvement! Broad certainly did pull it back, and was finally rewarded with 3-42, a great performance that was definitely not predicted after just six balls.
  • Alastair Cook – With 2 centuries already secured, a third was on the cards, and the way Cook went about his innings today, it looked a certainty. A supreme innings, even including a 6 from the captain, Cook hit his way to 80 from 98. Unable to get to the nervous nineties, fooled by Ajmal – and not for the first time – Cook gets a faint edge behind to the ‘keeper, what a shame but it was not to be. If Cook can produce one more fantastic performance on Tuesday, then this series will definitely be his own!
  • Kevin Pietersen – After a poor Test series, and no ODI century since 2008, once Pietersen took hold today he didn’t stop until he broke that 100 barrier. On a boundary surge, KP defied spin for the first time this tour and finally showed off the talent we all knew he had. Smashing his way to 111 from 98 balls, Pietersen was euphoric with his triumph, and why not? Truly showing the rest how to perform in ODIs, Pietersen is hopefully regaining some form, but it is too early to say that he is back to his best, way too early. So, let’s hope it can continue.

Rounding off a win with a Pietersen extra-cover drive for four, it sealed the series result in England’s favour. However, it all comes down to Tuesday when England must prove that they have utterly conquered the one-day format and complete a series whitewash over Pakistan. It can be done, of course it can, but whether or not England pull it off is a different matter – I believe they can, and it will give them a great boost going into the T20 series.

Moving away from the England lads for a minute, it must be mentioned that the England women have started their tour off versus New Zealand with a resounding T20 win by 6 wickets.  Restricting New Zealand to just a mere 80 runs, Anya Shrubsole starred with 5-11which is only the 4th 5 wicket haul in women’s T20 cricket. Alongside Shrubsole, Hazell with 3-15, helped to limit the opposition’s total, as New Zealand managed to scrape to 80 with one wicket remaining. Despite faltering in the run chase, ‘keeper S. Taylor and Beaumont stuck in taking England from 44-4, to the winning total of 81, with a 37 run partnership, that took the England women over the line to a comprehensive win. Hopefully they can make it 2-0 with their next game airing tonight; with both our England men and women in victorious form, it is a good time to be an England fan!

So that’s all for today, an England series whitewash is with any luck just around the corner, if they can repeat their performances in the T20 series soon approaching, they will have had a rather interesting series. Let’s see how they fair on Tuesday, but I am sure they’ll do just great… come on England!

Photo Credit: ECB (ecb.co.uk)

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Well what a match that turned out to be? A close game, right up until the last few overs when a couple of things went England’s way, that turned a 1-0 series lead into 2-0, with England now unable to lose the series. An unchanged team, compared to Pakistan’s three, emphasised their comfortable position as they led the way in how to win an ODI in style. Again we weren’t spared from brilliant cricket, the batting, bowling and fielding were nothing less than fantastic, as two teams fought for victory. At one stage I did doubt that England would be able to cross the line, with Pakistan on the charge and England unable to take those vital wickets. Never fear though, for the likes of Cook, Finn and Kieswetter, each created match winning chances; as England managed to keep the boundary count down towards the end, bowling Pakistan out wonderfully for 230. Winning by a margin of 20 runs, who stood out for me today?

  • Alastair Cook – Supreme batting and captaincy from Cook yet again, with successive 100s he has become the first England captain to do so in ODIs. Despite losing KP and Trott by the 27th over, Cook remained on top and hit his way to a crisp 102 from 121 balls. Keeping the critics at bay, Cook really has proved his worth, and hopefully we will see him in great form on Saturday. Remaining calm at the presentation Cook isn’t thinking about a 4-0 whitewash, but hopefully this will be the case!
  • Ravi Bopara – Picking Bopara again as one of my star performers he has kept up his form, and I would now say cemented his place for the rest of the tour, with a rather speedy 58 form 66. Despite sending one sky high to Akmal on the last ball, Bopara played a great supporting role for Cook with yet another substantial partnership… these two Essex lads certainly know how to roll!
  • Steven Finn – What a bowler Finny is turning out to be? His improvement over the past year has been incredible, as he matched his last ODI figures of 4-34, however, this time clearing up the tail-enders when it really mattered. First having ‘keeper Akmal with Patel taking a superb low catch at cover to make the ever important breakthrough; Rehman was next with a beautiful swinging delivery, clean bowled. Then finally Gul and Cheema were soon gone, as Finn soared toward four wickets, sealing victory in the process, beautiful bowling all round!
  • Craig Kieswetter – Not featuring with the bat today, it was his ‘keeping skills that caught my eye. Captain Misbah was set to reach his half-century, Pakistan had a slight chance of winning the match had he stayed at the crease, yet he creates a big top edge off Broad, and sends the ball towering. Taking an absolute beauty, Kiesy running back behind him misjudged the ball’s landing, and at last minute dives full stretch. It was a stunner… no wonder Swanny launched himself at Kiesy as he lay bewildered on the pitch!

Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson also played their part in today’s game, Broad having Farhat run-out, as well as obtaining the captain’s wicket; whilst Jimmy had Hafeez caught at slip early on, then took the prize-wicket of Afridi late on in the day. An all-round performance from England yet again. Although it was a hard fought match, England were once more the team on top as they proved the extent of their cricketing ability. Two more games are left in the series, as Saturday approaches the question will be raised over whether or not England can make it 3 in a row. I believe they can, and predicting an unchanged team again, if no injuries occur, I feel that England are now definitely the team to beat. Another fantastic team performance has propelled them back into winning ways, and if such performances are repeated we will have no problem defeating any opposition. Despite losing the Test series 4-0 (sorry to remind you all), England can learn from their mistakes, and things should hopefully look up when they take on Sri Lanka from the end of March.

I’m already anticipating another great day’s cricket coming up on Saturday especially if today is anything to go by; England fans are once more in happy spirits so we can all rest assured that we have 2 in the bag. So I’m off for another day, and yet still after everything that’s happened in the cricket, I still can’t stop think about Craig Kieswetter’s catch – just outstanding! :D

Cook bats his way to glory! Photo Credit: AFP (espncricinfo.com)

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At last England record a victory against Pakistan this year, their hard work has come to fruition in what was a fantastic match filled with batting, bowling and fielding of the highest quality. The England boys were on top form from the word go, and even managed to end Pakistan’s seven-match ODI winning run, as England conquered their test match difficulties (well to a certain extent) and claimed victory.

The selected squad consisted of: Cook, Pietersen, Trott, Bopara, Morgan, Kieswetter, Patel, Broad, Swann, Anderson and Finn. So as expected we had the regulars within the one-day side, but Bopara got the pick over Bairstow which I hadn’t predicted, and Jimmy had another chance in the ODI side as Dernbach didn’t make the grade. However, this decision bodes well, with three ODIs and T20s remaining, Dernbach will be on the side-lines if needed, but looking at our performance today this may not be the case. Bresnan also didn’t make the team today, the decision being made due to the uncertainty of how well his injury had healed.

Beating Pakistan by a comprehensive margin of 130 runs, it was early on in the day when the inroads for victory were first created. There were some thoroughly outstanding cricket played today, but who were the outstanding performers.

  • Alastair Cook – The captain who showed his team how to conquer the skill of the Pakistani bowlers. Racking up a mammoth 137 runs off just 142 balls, Cook silenced his critics once more as he proved his selection in the one-day side. Surviving until the 47th over, Cook looked comfortable from the outset hitting fourteen 4s along the way; and despite the two early wickets of KP and Trott in successive balls leaving England on 57-2, Cook remained undeterred. Finally dismissed after misjudging a sweep shot to Ajmal, Cook certainly played the captain’s innings as he truly showed his class at the crease.
  • Ravi Bopara – Despite being in and out of the team, in both test and one-dayers Bopara also expressed why he deserved his place. Now I am not the biggest fan of Bopara as a player, however, after today’s innings he took the pressure off Cook and played a very substantial innings to steady England after a brief fall of wickets. Dismissed just after reaching his half-century, Bopara played a risky shot and ended up stumped off the bowling of Ajmal; nevertheless he played a crucial role in England’s final total.
  • Saeed Ajmal – Ajmal was once again the pick of the Pakistani bowlers as he obtained five wickets in a spell of 5-15, to leave him with match figures of 5-43. Causing the middle order to collapse once having Bopara stumped, Ajmal picked up the wickets of Morgan, Kieswetter, Cook and Broad, to reduce England from 188-3 to 232-7. His tantalising bowling once again proved to be too much for England as they failed to pick the spin, with Ajmal reaping the rewards.
  • Steven Finn – The pick of the England bowlers this time certainly has to be Finny. Making his return to the England side after appearing last September against India, Finn made his mark and secured his place I would say for the rest of the tour. Making the early breakthrough, Finn soon had the Pakistani top order (Hafeez, Shafiq, Kahn and Farhat) out for a mere 40 runs; two LBW appeals that went his way, along with two catches behind the stumps that saw Pakistan crumble. Unable to recover, despite no more wickets for Finn, Pakistan were reduced to 130 all out, as Finn obtained career-best figures of 34-4 from his 10 overs.

England really were the team on top today and seemed to show-off their skill in what happens to be the weaker side of their game. Even though this is the case, there are still three ODIs remaining as aforementioned, so if England are to seal the series their hard-work needs to continue, which it undoubtedly will. The England bowlers were all in top form, and England’s fielding was far superior to that of Pakistan’s. For England especially, behind the stumps Kieswetter excelled, namely taking a beautiful catch diving full stretch to his left, off the bowling of Finn. So all round each and every player made their mark on today’s game, some more than others but where would we be without them all? With the next match in two days’ time on Wednesday, England will have to pursue a second and successive win to put the Pakistani team under pressure.

For now though let’s revel in England finally becoming victorious over in the UAE, it was an amazing day full of top match performances and fantastic cricket, hopefully to be repeated over the series!

FB :D

Finn was the outstanding England bowler! Photo Credit: AFP (espncricinfo.com)

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