England Outstanding As They Take ODI Series Lead
England 260-7 (Cook 137, Saeed Ajmal 5-43) beat
Pakistan 130 (Finn 4-34) by 130 runs
First One-Day International, Abu Dhabi
England put their dismal performances in the Test series behind them to thrash Pakistan by 130 runs in the opening One-Day International in Abu Dhabi.
As if to prove their worth, two players left out of the Test team - Ravi Bopara and Steven Finn - performed starring roles while Alastair Cook led from the front with a ground-record score.
His 137 in 142 deliveries, aided by Bopara's fluent 50, propped up England's winning score of 260 for seven despite Saeed Ajmal returning five for 43 - his maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs.
Finn (4-34) then tore in and removed Pakistan's top four batsmen for 40 runs inside nine overs to drive home England's advantage in emphatic fashion with a superb opening spell.
He trapped both Mohammad Hafeez (5) and Asad Shafiq (0) leg before with well-directed isnwingers before delivering an uncomfortable lifter to Younus Khan who could only inside edge to wicket-keeper Craig Kieswetter. He had looked in fine touch in making 15 in 18 balls and Finn's day got better when Imran Farhat (10) edged him to Kieswetter.
Shahid Afridi blasted 28 in 22 balls before being caught in the deep and Umar Akmal made 22 but their contributions were far too little, too late, to save their team and they were eventually all out for 130 in exactly 35 overs.
England's spinners Samit Patel (3-26) and Graeme Swann (2-16) made good use of helfpul conditions to build on Finn's work, Swann turning the ball sharply to have Akmal stumped and Umar Gul trapped in front as Pakistan careered towards defeat.
Fittingly, it was Cook who had the final say when he took a good running catch to remove Ajmal for five off the bowling of Stuart Broad.
England's captain had earlier produced his side's best individual innings of the tour by a distance as he cut, swept and drove his way past Brendon McCullum's previous ground record of 131.
He used his feet effectively against the spinners and punished any mistakes to hit 14 boundaries and combined well with Bopara, who came to the crease after Afridi had bowled Kevin Pietersen (20) and Jonathan Trott (0) with consecutive deliveries to leave England on 57 for two.
He showed considerable maturity as he and his Essex team-mate steered England out of a potentially sticky situation; so much so that the subsequent failures of Eoin Morgan (2) and Craig Kieswetter (9) to take advantage in the death overs didn't hinder England's challenge.
In the end, Patel and Swann swung the bat to good effect to reach 17 and 13 not out although at the halfway mark, the consensus among pundits and fans was clear - England were 20 to 30 runs short.
Had Cook not scored is century, they would have been. As it was, the early blows inflicted by Finn ensured there was no way back intot he game for Pakistan.
The second match in the four-game series is in Abu Dhabi on 15th February.
© Cricket World 2012