DIFFERENT faces, same result. England’s new players were as ruthless and dominant as the old lot.
After five easy wins out of five against Sri Lanka – it would have been six but for the rain – Ben Stokes and his novices crushed Pakistan in the first one-day international.
From the moment Lancashire fast bowler Saqib Mahmood took wickets with the first and third balls of the match – appropriately, it went down as W0W in the scorebook – England were never threatened.
Mahmood finished with 4-42 as Pakistan were routed for 141 all out.
It took England just 21.5 overs to knock off the runs and win by nine wickets with Dawid Malan and Zak Crawley making half-centuries.
Not bad for a scratch team who had only one training session together.
Pakistan’s batting was probably even worse than that of Sri Lanka because expectations were so much higher.
Their captain and superstar batsman Babar Azam – world-ranked No.1 in 50-over cricket – was Mahmood’s second victim, caught at second slip for a duck, and Pakistan never recovered.
England fielded five ODI debutants – Phil Salt, Crawley, John Simpson, Lewis Gregory and Brydon Carse – and Stokes on his own had accumulated 98 of the team’s total of 124 caps.
There were four more on the sidelines who have yet to play an ODI.
With the original squad and management all self-isolating after three players and four support staff tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday, this series is a chance for some who must have thought they would never play for England.
Others – such as Mahmood – can push their case for elevation to the A team.
As Stokes put it at the toss: “We’re making eleven changes from the last match.”
As you might expect, no team has ever done that before in a one-dayer.
Stokes enjoyed his first win as England captain after losing his only Test in charge last summer.
Saqib said: “Getting two wickets in the first over was unbelievable and we kept up our intensity after that. The message from Stokesy was that, yes, the circumstances were weird but every player was the best available in his position.”
All-rounder Craig Overton and leggie Matt Parkinson collected a couple of wickets each while Lewis Gregory and a run out accounted for the other two Pakistan batsmen.
PLAYING WITH FREEDOM
Left-handed opener Fakhar Zaman made 47 before skewing a Parkinson long hop to backward point.
Once they started collapsing, Pakistan kept on swinging and made no attempt to make sure they batted out the full 50 overs. Lamentably, they failed to do so by 14.4 overs.
In reply, Salt was caught in the slips but Malan and Crawley put on 120 for the second wicket in just 17.4 overs.
Malan, who scored 68 not out from 69 balls, continued his fine white-ball form.
Crawley’s 58 not out took just 50 deliveries and he was able to play with a freedom that will surely help his confidence in next month’s Test series against India after a poor run in the longest format.
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The second match is at Lord’s tomorrow (Sat) with a full house permitted.
Stokes added: “It was a very clinical performance, we were massively ahead of the game. We weren’t put under pressure today – not every game goes as smoothly as that.
“My message to the players was to do what they do for their counties and enjoy the situation we’re in.”