Early wickets give England edge on Pakistan

Another comprehensive victory for England as their excellence in 50-over cricket continued with little disruption. The final butcher's bill may state a win by four wickets but in reality it should say a win by 10.45am as Pakistan were three wickets down in 19 balls.

Skipper Eoin Morgan leads from the front as he strokes his way to 68, and England to victory. Picture: Adam Davy/PA

Chris Woakes and Mark Wood were too good first up although they did receive some unexpected help. The first assistance was from Pakistan captain, Azhar Ali, who won the toss and decided to bat despite the pitch boasting a rather green tinge as the early morning sun had not parched it dry, and the second was from TV umpire Simon Fry who overruled on-field umpire Marius Erasmus to give Sami Aslam out caught down the leg side. There was no fortune needed by Wood for the dismissal of Sharjeel Khan, though, as he delivered an unplayable ball that swung late and clipped off stump.

Few teams in the world can come back from such a disastrous start so it is credit to Pakistan that they mustered 251, mostly down to a superb century by keeper Sarfraz Ahmed.

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He has been the busiest cricketer at the crease all summer in all cricket and this showed its worth as he hustled and bustled with deft touches and quick running alongside Babar Azam, then Shoaib Malik and finally Imad Wasim. When he reached his hundred with a glance down to fine leg for four off Liam Plunkett, he became the first Pakistani to score an international one-day ton at Lords.

While he received good support, the innings lacked a burst of power hitting to set England’s captain a poser. Eoin Morgan is very fortunate in that he has three excellent seamers in Wood, Woakes and Plunkett and can therefore attack for wickets at any stage of the innings. So when Shoaib looked to target Moeen Ali, Morgan reacted by bringing back Wood for a burst of pace. It proved inspired as Shoaib was caught behind.

This England side always look capable of taking a crucial wicket, the basis of their recent 50-over success, especially in England.

The batting is less threatening, or consistently threatening.

Jason Roy was bowled second ball and after a stuttering few overs Alex Hales was bowled slogging to leg. It mattered little as Joe Root and Morgan could accumulate runs with little risk or undue worry about run rates. Both are natural gap finders and so they chivvied the innings along at a healthy rate adding 112 in 21 overs.

Indeed it was a surprise when Morgan was bowled , making too much room to hit through the offside, but it brought Ben Stokes to the crease who thrilled with a flurry of well-struck boundaries.

His demise, bowled attempting another hit, was followed swiftly by Jos Buttler being run out. Pakistan had the slenderest of opportunities to cause an upset but Root and Moeen stroked the ball pleasantly.

Wahab Riaz tried and in his final efforts had an LBW against Moeen overturned on review and Root eventually undone, caught off a leading edge, but it was too little too late.

The margin of victory was only so little due to carelessness by England’s batters.

There is a decent contest coming between these sides but only when Pakistan can post a suitable total. That demands a much better effort from their top order. Do that and give the bowlers something to work with and then we will see how good England are.