Dropped early in his innings and benefitting from an umpiring decision before he had reached 40, Andrew Strauss rode his luck to script a robust century and successfully anchor a stiff chase for England at Headingley yesterday. The England captain was on 23 when he flicked Shoaib Akhtar to the seven-feet Mohammed Irfan at fine leg. It was a straightforward chance, but the world's tallest international cricketer failed to pouch it. Fifteen runs later, Strauss had another fortuitous escape when Umar Gul forced an inside edge off his gloves, but the umpire turned down the appeal.
Strauss made the most of those two opportunities to score his fifth century in one-day internationals, at a time when his place in the squad is being questioned. His 126, made from 134 balls, allowed England to overhaul Pakistan's 294 for eight with four wickets to spare, take a 2-0 lead in the five-match series and climb to No 2 in the ODI rankings, behind Australia. "That's one of our goals, to get to No 1 in the world and we are carrying on in the right direction," said Strauss at the post-match presentations. "We are in a good position in the series now. We are used to winning and we have got to continue doing that."
England seemed headed for a comfortable finish, just one down in the 33rd over with 189 on the board. Strauss and Jonathan Trott were at the crease, having added 146 runs together. The game, however, went into the final over with the hosts needing six for a win and they finished with three balls to spare. "It got a little bit closer than we would have liked to, but we got over the line in the end," Strauss said. "The partnership I had with Trotty, kind of set things up pretty well. We just needed a decent finish there.
"It wasn't a complete performance - our fielding was shambolic at times. It was just one of those days? a couple of fumbles early and everyone starts getting a bit edgy. Let's hope it is not repeated." While Strauss was harsh on England's performance in the field, Shahid Afridi could only laugh at his team's clumsy fielding, with dropped catches becoming an almost integral part of their game. "As usual," the Pakistan captain said when asked if it was another case of missed opportunities. "It was a very good total, but the way the skipper [Strauss] played, it was a great knock and because of his knock, I think they won the game."
At the break though, Afridi was thinking of a win that would have levelled the series. An entertaining 72-ball 74 from Kamran Akmal and Asad Shafiq's aggressive 50 had allowed Pakistan to post a challenging score. Akmal put on 122 runs for the opening wicket with Mohammad Hafeez, and it was their best start on this tour of England. Mohammad Yousuf and Shafiq then kept the scoreboard ticking in a 74-run partnership, while cameos from Umar Akmal (28) and Fawad Alam (20 not out) completed a good batting display for the visitors. "I am quite happy with our performance, the way the boys are coming back," Afridi said. "That's what I want and that's what we are expecting. "The way Kamran, Shafiq, Yousuf and Umar Akmal played, it gives us a lot of confidence. But again, we need to start taking theopportunities that come our way." * Compiled by Ahmed Rizvi
Pakistan K Akmal lbw b Collingwood 74 Hafeez b Swann 43 Yousuf c Davies b Broad 46 Shafiq c Bopara b Broad 50 U Akmal c Davies b Broad 28 Afridi c Strauss b Anderson 9 Alam not out 20 Gul b Bresnan 3 Ajmal c Strauss b Broad 4 Akhtar not out 0 Extras 5w, 12lb 17 Total (8 wkts, 50 overs) 294 Fall of wickets: 1-122; 2-137; 3-211; 4-246; 5-258; 6-278; 7-284; 8-289 Bowling: Bresnan 9-0-53-1; Anderson 10-1-36-1; Broad 10-0-81-4; Yardy 6-0-43-0; Swann 10-0-43-1; Collingwood 5-0-26-1 England Strauss lbw b Ajmal 126 Davies c K Akmal b Akhtar 26 Trott run out 53 Collingwood c sub b Afridi 19 Morgan c Hafeez b Gul 16 Bopara c Hafeez b Ajmal 16 Yardy not out 13 Bresnan not out 10 Extras 13w, 3lb 16 Total (6 wkts, 49.3 overs) 295 Fall of wickets: 1-43; 2-189; 3-220; 4-248; 5-260; 6-282 Bowling: Akhtar 8-0-49-1; Irfan 7-0-40-0; Gul 9.3-0-59-1; Ajmal 10-0-52-2; Afridi 9-0-59-1; Hafeez 6-0-33-0 England won by four wickets