Pakistan upend form book to beat England despite Root, Buttler tons

Joe Root


Pakistan 348 for 8 (Hafeez 84, Babar 63, Sarfaraz 55, Moeen 3-50, Woakes 3-71) beat England 334 for 9 (Root 107, Buttler 103, Wahab 3-82) by 14 runs

Joe Root

A hundred from Joe Root, the first in this World Cup. A hundred from Jos Buttler, at 75 balls the fifth fastest in the history of the World Cup. The disadvantage of losing the toss and being asked to set a target in these quixotic ODI times. The pressure of coming into this game on the back of a hammering at the same ground three days ago (not to mention 11 successive defeats in the format). Pakistan looked cornered, for sure, but they produced the old tiger routine at Trent Bridge to emerge bloodied but unbowed against the hosts and favourites. And, more crucially, with two World Cup points in their pocket.

Having opened so smoothly against South Africa, England were given a World Cup reality check – a reminder, in particular, that their vaunted batting line-up cannot make up for every sub-par performance with the ball. It had been almost four years since England last lost an ODI chase at home, but this was a record target in World Cups and despite going into the last ten overs needing 91 with five wickets in hand, Pakistan’s death bowling was good enough that the last dozen deliveries were barely even squeaky.

Success with the ball has never been more relative: Wahab Riaz’s 3 for 82 would barely have qualified as respectable a decade ago, but his changes of pace at the death ensured England would not wag their way to a last-gasp victory (as well as accounting for Jonny Bairstow at the top of the order). Mohammad Amir, meanwhile, removed Buttler the ball after he had recorded his hundred, to finally send the scales lurching in Pakistan’s direction.

In any other era, against any other side, Pakistan’s total of 348 for 8 would have looked impregnable. It was built around solid top-order contributions from Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam and Sarfaraz Ahmed, though perhaps crucially aided and abetted by some uncharacteristically sloppy fielding from England.

At the halfway stage, there was a sense that this could easily go the way of Pakistan’s unsuccessful attempts to defend 358 and 340 during the ODI series last month. But this was a World Cup encounter, in which the hosts carry the tag of favourites; however often they have pulled off such feats over recent years, there is no such thing as an easy chase of 349.

So it was to prove, though for a while during the stand between Root and Buttler of 130 in 17.3 overs, England had the air of warm favourites (despite history and mathematics remaining firmly against them). That lifted England from the travails of 118 for 4, with both openers falling inside the Powerplay and Pakistan’s part-time spin pairing of Hafeez and Shoaib Malik accounting for the in-form Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes.

It could have been worse for England, Root surviving a difficult diving chance to slip on 9 – Babar the would-be catcher, Amir the frustrated bowler – but he otherwise fulfilled his anchor role with aplomb, easing his way to a hundred from 97 balls. Then, with 101 needed and more than 10 overs of the innings remaining, Root threw his hands at a delivery from Shadab Khan and sliced to short third man. The noise from the increasingly rambunctious English sections of the Trent Bridge crowd immediately dropped a level.

In fact, there had been equally voluble support for Pakistan, and England had seemed a touch rattled – there were sarcastic claps to the crowd in the field, and then palpable frustration from Jason Roy when his lbw against Shadab in the third over was confirmed on review. Bairstow responded forcefully before feathering behind off Wahab, and it was a sign of England’s uneven effort that his 32 end up being their third-highest score.

The DRS could not come to Pakistan’s aid later in the innings, when Buttler was rapped on the front pad by Shadab with just 33 to his name. It was understandable that Sarfaraz had gambled, with Buttler clearly England’s likeliest match-winner; even after Root’s dismissal, Pakistan nerves frayed further when a thin edge off Moeen Ali that could also have seen him stumped was missed by the captain. But Amir had Buttler carving to short third man, while Moeen never got going before being put out of his misery by Wahab.

It was an English error that seemed to be magnified in retrospect, as Hafeez took advantage of the life he received on 14 to top-score for Pakistan – and then scuttled one through Morgan’s defences for good measure, as he and Malik ensured that an XI light on frontline bowlers could hold off the modern game’s most enthusiastic chasers.

Despite the scorn heaped upon their batsmen after succumbing to 105 all out against West Indies on Friday, Pakistan produced a remarkably resolute response. Imam-ul-Haq and Fakhar Zaman put on 82 for the first wicket and the middle order then cracked on fluently as only Moeen found much joy among the England attack. How different might things have been, however, had Roy held on to a steepling miscue from Hafeez when he gave Adil Rashid the charge in the legspinner’s second over.

Rashid was to end wicketless, hit out of the attack after conceding 43 from five overs as Babar and Hafeez took him on. Jofra Archer, too, endured his toughest outing in international cricket, dealt with dismissively at the death on the way to figures of 0 for 79.

While Chris Woakes could not be faulted, claiming four catches and a share of the World Cup record for a fielder, to go with three wickets, his contributions were the exception as England totted up 13 misfields and 17 extra runs donated to the Pakistan cause – enough to have swung the match. Having failed to live up to their billing, Morgan’s side must deal with defeat by a team they had wiped aside 4-0 in bilaterals just a couple of weeks ago. That added pressure of World Cups? Well, it is only going to increase from here.