It took just 19 balls of this match, after which Pakistan were 2 for 3, for England to have established a position of dominance from which it was extremely unlikely Pakistan would recover.
Despite the best efforts of Sarfraz Ahmed who scored a fantastic hundred, for the second time in as many matches Pakistan’s total of 251 was below-par and England chased the runs with more ease than a four wicket win suggests.
Given the damage inflicted to Pakistan’s chances in the first 19 balls of the match Azhar Ali’s decision to bat first after winning the toss should be examined. Since the World Cup last year both England and Pakistan have higher win percentages when bowling first than batting first and with a 10.30am start likely to favour new ball bowling Ali’s decision to bat was bold and it backfired badly.
Sami Aslam, who replaced Mohammad Hafeez in the team, was the first batsman to fall. He had faced the first nine balls of the match when Woakes bowled the shortest ball up until that point and Aslam, looking to capitalise on the shorter length attempted to pull it but could only get a glove through to Jos Buttler. As is often the case with a wicket taken by a bouncer the preceding delivery is relevant. In this instance it was the second fullest ball of the match up until then and was fairly quick at 87.69 mph. When Aslam saw the following ball pitching short he probably expected it to be quicker than the 82.56 mph that it was and when he attempted the shot he was fractionally early on it and missed it before it caught the glove.
The following two wickets were sensational deliveries – possibly assisted by the pitch but brilliant in their own right.
The first was Sharjeel, whose off stump was sent flying by Mark Wood. Bowling from over the wicket, angling the ball across the left-hander, it was 87.46 mph, pitched 7.02 metres from the batsman’s stumps and 1 cm outside the line of leg stump. Sharjeel propped forward onto the front foot looking to cover the angle, but the ball swung by 0.95 degrees and then after pitching deviated a further 1.32 degrees away. The movement from the original line, amounting to 2.27 degrees was enough to beat the outside edge before the ball, which bounced 70 cm, blasted off stump out of the ground.
Five balls later the right handed Ali, to the first ball he faced, was dismissed too. The ball was 86.29 mph, pitched 7.20 cm from the batsman’s stumps and 13 cm outside off stump. Swing was not a factor here. This ball swung 0.09 degrees. Instead it was the bounce and deviation after pitching. Shorter length deliveries in Woakes’ opening over by about 70 cm bounced 93cm and 71cm off the pitch – this one bounced 1.00 metre off the pitch. After pitching it deviated by 1.42 degrees away – the third biggest deviation of the match up until then. Ali, appeared to pick up the length early and pushed slightly forward. Responding to the extra bounce Ali appeared to drop his hands but in the end the lift and movement still found the shoulder of the bat, taking a satisfying edge through to Buttler who took a tidy catch to his right.
It had taken England just 19 balls to bowl three balls that took wickets. Pakistan, already with batting worries and a long tail, were 2 for 3 and even a magnificent hundred from Sarfraz was not enough to repair the damage.