England win by 20 runs

Only an ODI could be this close and still this dull. Pakistan needed 251 to win and yet never seemed to go for the runs until it was too late. They hung around, matched England’s score and matched the D/L par score for almost the entire innings, and apart from a brief blitz by Afridi in the last powerplay they never showed any real attacking intent. It was a match in which the result was not decided until a couple of overs before it ended and yet it was never gripping. There were 99 overs played and about ninety of them followed the ‘dull middle over’ pattern. If it had been a Test match it might have been thrilling, but as it was it was just waiting for something to actually happen.

Part of that was the England bowlers who were very good again, Finn turning in his second successive 4-34, but once again losing out on man of the match to his centurion captain. Jimmy Anderson, however, who I suggested should not play in ODIs took the vital wicket of Afridi in what turned out to be a wicket-maiden. I still say Jimmy should not play ODIs, or at least seldom play. My point about him needing to be fit and firing in Tests has not changed, but he showed today just how talented he is.

I always think that ODIs should be played before Tests in a tour as to do otherwise is often anticlimactic, as we saw with the series against India last summer and the Ashes before that, but I think England will be particularly ruing that the Tests came before the ODIs on this tour. England played Saeed Ajmal much better today, partly due to practise and partly due to the format demanding that they attack a bit more and not having men around the bat. If the ODIs had come first they would have got their practise in the less important matches and they might have learnt the value of positive play before now. I don’t think it will be changed in the near future, but it is something at which I think the ECB ought to look.

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