In the first innings of the first ODI in Cardiff, England demonstrated their remarkable depth in depth.
Despite having to make 11 changes from the side that played Sri Lanka only four days ago, England’s second string looked more than capable of defeating Pakistan, who are currently ranked third in the World Cup Super League.
It had been 36 years since England had fielded a team with so few caps – Ben Stokes had 98 prior to this match, while his teammates had only 26. However, after the full extent of the Covid outbreak in England’s camp was revealed on Monday, the ECB was forced to name an entirely new players and support staff to ensure this series could go ahead.
In the end, England received five new caps, the most since Peter Moores’ tenure as coach ended in May 2015 with an ODI against Ireland. Fast bowler Brydon Carse, top-order batter Zak Crawley, seam-bowling all-rounder Lewis Gregory, top-order batter Phil Salt, and keeper John Simpson all made their ODI debuts. While Crawley and Gregory have both played Test and T20I cricket, the other three have never played in an international match.
But it was Saqib Mahmood, who was the third most experienced member of the side after playing his fifth ODI, who made the early inroads. He hit an excellent probing length and generated just enough movement to beat or catch edges.
Simpson, England’s new keeper, and Stokes, England’s new captain, were vindicated in calling for a review so soon into their roles when Imam-ul-Haq played across the first ball of the series, with Babar Azam following two balls later. Pakistan were 26 for 4 when Saqib went around the wicket and trapped left-handed debutant Saud Shakeel with a nipped in.
In the midst of England’s chaos, it’s easy to forget that Pakistan had not had the best preparation.
Pakistan had only played inter-squad warm-up matches and were perhaps unfortunate enough to be batting first on a surface with only a smidgeon of seam movement.
For a while, when Fakhar Zaman and Sohaib Maqsood were together, it looked as if Pakistan may be able to rebuild. Fakhar, putting away anything overpitched or short with panache, looked in glorious touch with Maqsood producing one ferocious cut for six off Carse. Together they put on 53 for the fifth wicket.
But when Maqsood was run out, attempting to regain his ground having been sent back by Fakhar, Pakistan’s hopes of setting a challenging total disappeared with him. Fakhar, slicing a drag-down from Parkinson to cover, soon followed. Saqib returned to have Faheem Ashraf caught behind flashing outside off stump and finished with 4 for 42 from his 10 overs. Those figures, impressive though they are, didn’t flatter him at all.
It wasn’t a perfect performance from England. Not quite, anyway. Hasan Ali, on 1, was badly missed by Dawid Malan at deep mid-wicket, while a much tougher chance (an under-edge off a slow-sweep) offered by Shadab Khan, on 6, was missed by Simpson behind the stumps. Matt Parkinson was the unfortunate bowler on both occasions with Shadab going on to make 30; one of only two men to reach 20 in the innings.Parkinson, at mid-on, also made a bit of a mess of a chance offered by Shaheen Shah Afridi on 10. Ben Stokes held a similar chance from the next delivery to ensure it wasn’t expensive.