Is it even news?

So, Inzamam has been found guilty of bringing the game into disrepute but not of ball tampering, and has had the minimum penalty awarded for his indiscretion. Would any surprised parties please raise their hands?

What, no takers?

After the seeming lack of concrete evidence, it would be hard to say anyone expected a different result. Sky’s exaggeration of Shoaib Akhtar’s thumb-flick had more televised credibility. Of slightly more interest is Hair’s removal from the ICC Trophy list for reasons of ‘safety and security’. Should Hair really be in fear of injury if he umpires on the subcontinent? Or is this merely damage control?

Jubilant if slightly deaf

When my brother picked some front row seats on the shortest boundary this morning, I will admit to wishing I had brought a helmet rather than a baseball cap. Thanks to a prime bowling wicket courtesy of Steve Rouse, the only six of the day fell some ten metres to our left, so I’m still physically intact.

Mentally, I am a little more delicate. Confession time; I am a terrible one for nerves. Attending the last day of Edgbaston’s Ashes Test just about killed me, so today was not exactly a calming experience.

England’s bowling performance was exemplary. If Stuart Broad seems expensive at just above four an over, it is a reflection on how well the attack performed as a whole. Strauss’ bowling changes largely worked well. Fielding, again, was of a high standard. Where the team simply must improve is reducing wide deliveries. When a ‘keeper stands up, some byes and leg-byes are to be expected. However, there is no excuse for extras scoring higher than all but one of Pakistan’s batsmen.

Whilst the nature of England’s response could be blamed on the wicket, they seemed to show few problems in the first powerplay period. Andrew Strauss once again showed his fluency and with a brief cameo from Joyce, England bettered Pakistan’s meagre boundary count after eight overs. The game was set up for a victory chase on cruise control. But a one-day game at Edgbaston would not be complete without an attempt by the home side to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. It took the much-maligned Sajid Mahmood to hit the vital tail-end runs, after Bell’s premature loss sparked the mid-innings collapse in front of an expectant Warwickshire crowd. The only English batsman to receive a louder reception was Kevin Pietersen, though this was largely based on Pakistani jeering. Much of Pietersen’s time in the field was spent on the boundary in front of a lively Eric Hollies stand, and after tempting the lime-green members of the crowd with a lazy chicken flap in the early part of the day, his every action got a rather vocal response.

The atmosphere an Edgbaston crowd can generate at an international match is always something special, but until today I had never experienced the sheer electricity a sub-continental one-dayer brings to a place. I gather that some Sky viewers complained about the noise being generated by the horns, but the sound coming through my earpiece was nothing compared to the ground itself – and I was the opposite end to the bulk of the Pakistani support, where it must have been amplified tenfold. When a Pakistani fielder so much as stuck an arm up in appeal, the whole ground seemed to stand and scream at the top of their lungs. If the cheers after Billy Bowden raised his crooked finger left my ears ringing last year, the crowd response here was something else. The whole thing was awe-inspiring. To think that the horns were supposedly being refused entry.

So, England have avoiding losing a series for the first time since last July. Can they win a meaningful match abroad? The ICC Champions Trophy is just around the corner, so who knows?

Live discussion: England v Pakistan, 5th ODI, Edgbaston

So then, the series is alive (sort of). It’s 2-1 to Pakistan and England at least have a chance to level it. It’s also Paul Collingwood’s 100th one-dayer today. Anyway, leave your thoughts and comments below. I think Emma is at the game so will no doubt provide some musings later.

One last look

For the first time this one-day series, or any in recent memory, we can expect an unchanged line-up from England. Something to be celebrated!

As well as providing Collingwood with his 100th ODI cap, tomorrow will also be the last England game before their Ashes squad, and Ashes captain, are announced next week. Strauss will certainly want a win to push his credentials. Test and one-day captaincy are certainly very different, but if Strauss responds with another captain’s innings tomorrow, it will help prove his ability to lead in a form where he had not until recently been a certain selection. But, of course, I wouldn’t like to tempt fate.

It had to happen some day

This game was hardly a thriller, but it was a win. England can take positives from this match on to Edgbaston, as well as a much-needed dose of confidence.

It seems fair to say that the game was won in the field. In fact, if it were not for the 47 runs scored in Pakistan’s last twelve balls, courtesy of some fantastic play from Abdul Razzaq, England would have wrapped up the game around about the 40th over of their reply. Pakistan’s bowling performance showed signs of the problems that have been hounding the hosts all summer – tiredness and inaccuracy. Whilst England batted well, Ian Bell in particular, only Asif and Hafeez really troubled in what was a comfortable run chase.

England bowled well for the majority of their 50 overs. Whilst I’m happy to give credit, especially to debutant Michael Yardy, I do hope Strauss starts to think his bowling changes at the death through a little more for Edgbaston. There seemed little sense in cutting Dalrymple off after 9 overs, or in taking off Broad after his over took a wicket for only a single. Nevertheless, for the moment, I’m going to celebrate a one-day game mostly memorable in its result – England’s first win in a series that wasn’t already dead since last year – and in the fact Trescothick was dropped for the first time in his England career.

Live discussion: England v Pakistan, 4th ODI, Trent Bridge

In an unsettling development, England nearly competed on an even keel in the third ODI against Pakistan at The Rose Bowl. They nearly took them to the wire, too. Today is the fourth of the five-match series and yet again England are faced with a selection headache. Marcus Trescothick’s withdrawal from the Champions Trophy means he could miss today’s match, too, as Andrew Strauss alluded to. And surely one of Sajid Mahmood or Rikki Clarke will be dropped in place of Graham Onions; at least, we hope so.

Weather is set fine, so we should have a full day’s play – although, inevitably, the dew and moisture of Britain’s late summer will affect conditions under the lights. I’ll be on ball-by-ball, so keep an eye on Cricinfo and leave your comments below of the day’s events.

Cricinfo live scorecard and ball-by-ball details.

And coming out to open?

So who exactly will be opening the batting tomorrow? It seems as if Trescothick is not expected to, though I have not seen any mention of his being removed from the squad. There are also murmurs that Pietersen might be promoted to open. David Lloyd has been consistent in his belief that England don’t, and should, make more of the early powerplays. Could Pietersen do the trick? I’m not convinced. But I think Ian Bell should open, so what do I know.

Thoughts, anyone?

Video of Shoaib Akhtar “fiddling” the ball

He’s been cleared today. I’m not making any comment. Here’s the video for you to make your minds up. (click here if you can’t see it below)

The issue is more to do with Sky, than Shoaib…

England finally compete

At last. After seven one-day thrashings this summer, England finally evaded another whipping with a far improved performance against Pakistan.

They still lost, though.

But nevermind. Crack open the champagne and celebrate for England managed to take Pakistan close. Andrew Strauss batted with great intent – it was a relief to see him leading from the front, in particular skipping down the pitch to disrupt Mohammad Asif’s length. And ol’ Asif really does hate batsmen doing that! Strauss won that particular battle. A pretty good innings, then, helped by some Pakistani fielding at its most hilarious.

I don’t know if they took their eye off the ball, figuratively speaking (considering their series lead, and England’s general uselessness), or if The Rose Bowl is a particularly difficult ground on which to field…but they were hapless. The stand-out performer, and I use that word sparingly and, in this case cautiously, was Inzamam! His elephantine tumbles sent shockwaves…sorry, couldn’t resist. He was really good, Inzy, and batted quite brilliantly to close the game out at the end.

Good things:

  • Younis Khan’s batting. He is a terrific cricketer, and character
  • Younis smashing a four and immediately marching towards the point fielder, shouting and waving
  • Shahid Afridi’s misfield which made him look like a real wally
  • Andrew Strauss’s batting and intent in the field. His relaxed demeanour and wry smile have gone. Mind you, losing that many one-day games is enough to break even the most fierce Cherie Blair grin
  • Watching Ian Bell get hit in the family jewels, via Strauss’s flat-batted pull shot. Corrrrr.
  • Watching Billy Doctrove nearly get hit in the family jewels, star-jumping out of the way like a ballet dancer on acid

Bad things:

  • Rikki Clarke. A first-ball duck, and a very poor and at times clueless spell of bowling. Young and inexperienced, but this was a very special effort
  • Sajid Mahmood. Clearly a gifted bowler, he desperately needs Flintoff or Harmison at mid-off to advise him. He’s going from wayward to waywarder in each match
  • Pakistan’s fielding. It will cost them the World Cup.

The bandwagon continues at Nottingham. Rock on.

Live discussion: England v Pakistan, 3rd ODI, Rose Bowl

So, another one-day match. This time, England are at the Rose Bowl and have lost the toss. Pakistan have put them in to bat, and are unchanged. Mahmood has come in for Gough, so it looks like those Onions one-liners will have to be shelved for this game.

As usual, cricinfo will provide ball-by-ball commentary.

Well, here we go. If you can leave a comment before we lose a wicket, I’ll be impressed. In fact, there goes one now.