Super-sub Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes kept England on track for an unbeaten white-ball summer with a four-wicket win over Pakistan at Headingley.
Stokes has been a late arrival in England’s limited-overs team this season, because of his injury troubles, and Bairstow was the fifth Yorkshire player in action on his home ground only after Jos Buttler injured his hamstring in the warm-up.
They answered the call with a century stand in this fourth Royal London Series match, after England stumbled to 72 for four in pursuit of 247 for eight under lights.
The hosts, following up the record-breaking heroics of Trent Bridge where they racked up an all-time highest one-day international total of 444 for three, have also wrapped up Andrew Strauss’ cross-format Super Series for good measure.
The 4-0 scoreline was in evident danger, albeit facing an achievable target, before Stokes (69) and Bairstow (61) got to work. But they demonstrated England’s enviable strength in depth to help edge this much tighter contest following the Nottingham cakewalk.
Only under-fire captain Azhar Ali (80) and number eight Imad Wasim (57not out) hit half-centuries for Pakistan, as Adil Rashid (three for 47) and Moeen Ali shared five wickets for England.
The premise of a routine chase was undermined, however, with England in a decidedly awkward spot by the 15-over mark. Jason Roy was very well-caught low down at second slip by Mohammad Rizwan off Mohammad Irfan, and Alex Hales – England’s record-breaker in chief with his new benchmark 171 three days ago – edged behind pushing forward, after the tall left-armer Irfan went round the wicket to avoid a final warning for running on the pitch.
Previously in-form pair Joe Root and Eoin Morgan each contributed more obviously to his own downfall, the former mis-pulling Hasan Ali to long-leg and his captain guiding a catch off Umar Gul to slip.
But with England’s other Trent Bridge big-hitter Buttler absent, his replacement Bairstow set about making up the shortfall.
Stokes had a close call for lbw against Mohammad Nawaz on 30. Then five runs later, he escaped when Nawaz could not hold on to a difficult outfield chance off his fellow slow left-armer Imad.
It was not until he had a run-a-ball 50 under his belt that Stokes picked out deep midwicket off Imad – and if any fresh doubts were briefly sown, Bairstow ensured they did not last long.
He reached his half-century with a ferocious straight-drive off Nawaz and England were in charge despite Bairstow’s late direct-hit run-out, Moeen closing the deal with a straight six to finish unbeaten on 45 with two overs to spare.