Saqib Mahmood marked his return to England duty with a four-wicket haul as the completely changed hosts put their Covid-19 problems behind them with an emphatic nine-wicket win over Pakistan in the first one-day international at Cardiff on Thursday.
Player of the match Mahmood took an ODI best 4-42 as Pakistan were skittled out for just 141 with more than 14 overs left to bat.
England, the reigning 50-over world champions, made 142-1 to go 1-0 up in a three-match series ahead of Saturday’s clash at Lord’s.
Dawid Malan was 68 not out after a run-a-ball fifty.
Together with Test batsman Zak Crawley (58 not out), one of five ODI debutants in the England team, he shared an unbroken stand of 120 as a match scheduled for 100 overs finished in a mere 67.1.
England were fielding a completely changed XI from their previous ODI — the first time this had happened to any side in the 50-year history of the format — after a Covid-19 outbreak within their existing squad during a recent 2-0 series win at home to Sri Lanka required all 16 players originally selected to play against Pakistan to self-isolate.
In addition, injuries to fast bowlers Jofra Archer and Olly Stone and wicketkeeper-batsman Jos Buttler meant they were effectively without two first-choice XIs.
– ‘Clinical’ –
Yet their ‘C team’ dominated from the moment Mahmood took a wicket with the first ball of the match — and then dismissed Pakistan captain Babar Azam, the world’s top-ranked ODI batsman, for a duck with the third ball.
“It was a very clinical performance, when you get opposition four down early on then you’re ahead in the game,” said stand-in England captain Ben Stokes at the presentation ceremony.
“When you get a new group together you’re striving for that first real team performance. We didn’t get put under pressure today, I have no doubt we will at some point.”
Mahmood added: “As a team we want to win games, and as players you want to contribute to those wins.”
Azam paid tribute to England’s makeshift attack by saying: “We were a bit loose with the bat, and that’s why we didn’t get a big total, but credit to the England bowlers.”
Such was England’s command, Stokes bowled just one over despite the World Cup-winner being the most experienced member of the attack.
– Sensational start –
England made a sensational start when Mahmood snared Imam-ul-Haq lbw with the first ball after a review ordered by Stokes confirmed the delivery had pitched in line.
Two balls later, Mahmood had a prize wicket when Azam edged to Crawley at second slip, with Pakistan yet to score a run.
And when Mahmood had Pakistan debutant Saud Shakeel lbw for five, the tourists were 26-4 from seven overs.
But Fakhar Zaman counter-attacked to the delight of Pakistan fans in a crowd limited to 2,251 by Welsh government virus restrictions.
The left-handed opener hit six fours, including a straight drive off debutant fast bowler Brydon Carse.
New batsman Sohaib Maqsood, in his first ODI for five years, flat-batted Carse over extra-cover for six.
But a promising stand of 53 ended in farcical fashion when non-striker Maqsood, lured down the pitch by the advancing Zaman’s call for a single, was undone when his partner suddenly stopped, with James Vince running him out for 19.
Pakistan, restricted to intra-squad rather than tour matches, badly needed the in-touch Zaman to keep going.
However, he fell tamely for 47 when a miscued cut off leg-spinner Matt Parkinson lobbed to backward point.
And when Mahmood had Faheem Ashraf caught behind, Pakistan were 101-7.
England debutant opener Phil Salt — born in Wales but now with Sussex — fell early when he edged Shaheen Shah Afridi to first slip.
But Malan made a run-a-ball fifty, with Crawley — following a run of low scores at Test level — even quicker to the landmark.
© Agence France-Presse