Twenty20 cricket has its faults but its helter-skelter nature yesterday gave the players of England and Pakistan the perfect stage on which to forget the troubles of the past week and highlight all that is good in the game with an exhilarating display. England were comprehensively beaten by a highly motivated Pakistan side on an afternoon set aside for fun but, after recent events, the result was largely academic.
The most important issue was that international cricket was being played and spectators were leaving a venue talking enthusiastically about what took place on the field, rather than apportioning blame in the Darrell Hair affair.
Inevitably, there was crowd reaction to recent events, but more in football-style jest than disgust. A section of the 15,000 crowd chanted, "Cheat, cheat, cheat" as Mohammad Asif and the fit-again Shoaib Akhtar hurtled in to bowl at the start of the match. And the same group made similar utterances when Inzamam-ul-Haq, the man at the centre of the ball-tampering dispute which led to the forfeited fourth Test, walked out to bat.
But the barracking aimed at the Pakistan captain was drowned by sympathetic applause when the announcer informed the rest of the capacity crowd that Inzamam had entered the field of play. The events of the past week may have been overplayed in certain sections of the media, but they have done nothing but harm to the image of cricket.
The atmosphere within the County Ground did not suggest cricket was in crisis. Spectators were not to be found worrying about what was about to take place next; they seemed pleased to be again talking about and watching a game they enjoy following.
England's total of 144 for 7 was never really going to test Pakistan, even if they were playing their first-ever game of Twenty20 cricket. Marcus Trescothick top scored with 53, but he was given little support by his fellow batsmen.
Stuart Broad, one of two players making his England debut - Sussex's Michael Yardy was the other - showed enormous promise during a lively four-over opening spell. The 20-year-old, playing ahead of Stephen Harmison, whose back injury has forced him out of the rest of the one-daymatches, claimed two wickets in his second over. Shoaib Malik was trapped in front and, next ball, Younis Khan was caught by Chris Read down the leg side.
Shahid Afridi hacked the hat-trick ball just out of the reach of Ian Bell, running back from mid-on, and the destructive batsman swiped Broad for 19 in his final over. Afridi smashed 28 from the 10 balls he faced, including a huge six over deep mid-wicket that resulted in the ball being lost, a performance that won him the man-of-the-match award, but there was enough in the 24 balls Broad sent down to suggest that he, too, has a fine future ahead of him.
Darren Gough, making his England comeback, had a far less enjoyable match. On another day he would have picked up a couple of wickets but the way in which Inzamam hoisted him over long-on for six, suggests that he will find life hard in the five one-dayers that follow.
Mohammad Hafeez, with 46, took Pakistan to the brink of victory but it was Abdul Razzaq who had the pleasure of striking the winning runs with 13 balls remaining. Razzaq's unbeaten 17 came off seven balls and England's bowlers will not be relishing the prospect of bowling at Afridi over the coming fortnight.
The chorus aimed at members of the Pakistan side did not last long. The departure of Bell silenced them first, when he edged a short of the length ball from Shoaib to first slip. In light of recent events it would have been nice to see Bell trust Younis Khan's call that he had caught a juggling catch cleanly but, instead, he chose to stand his ground and wait for a verdict from the third umpire.
Kevin Pietersen and Andrew Strauss soon followed Bell. Pietersen was bowled first ball by Asif, to give him his second golden duck against Pakistan in three innings, and Strauss perished two balls later when he edged a catch to Kamran Akmal behind the stumps.
After losing three wickets for one run in five balls England needed to regroup but this failed to happen when Paul Collingwood was caught behind. Trescothick has had a disappointing summer in Test cricket but his limited-over form has been superb. The opener scored two hundreds in the initial one-day segment of the season and he again showed his form by scoring 53 here.
Trescothick has now scored 166 runs in his three Twenty20 internationals and he looked set to pass his highest score - 72 against Sri Lanka in June - before he edged Abdul Razzaq through to the keeper. Jamie Dalrymple, dropped by Afridi on four, attempted to get England to a competitive total, but the bowling of a full-strength Pakistan attack proved too good.
Michael Yardy, in his own distinctive way, showed promise with a quick-fire 24 but England's total 144 for 7 always looked to be 30 to 40 runs short of a par score. The sight of Shoaib, Asif and Rana Naved-ul-Hasan bowling in unison warmed the large Pakistan contingent in the crowd. It also suggested that the result in the Test series might well have been different had they all been fit and available six weeks ago.
Scoreboard from Bristol
England won toss
M E Trescothick c Kamran Akmal b Abdul Razzaq 53
57 min, 36 balls, 9 fours
I R Bell c Younis Khan b Shoaib Akhtar (TV replay) 14
20 min, 17 balls, 2 fours
K P Pietersen b Mohammad Asif 0
1 min, 1 ball
*A J Strauss c Kamran Akmal b Mohammad Asif 0
1 min, 2 balls
P D Collingwood c Kamran Akmal b Naved-ul-Hasan 2
10 min, 11 balls
J W M Dalrymple c Shoaib Akhtar b Abdul Razzaq 27
30 min, 28 balls, 2 fours
M H Yardy not out 24
23 min, 14 balls, 2 fours, 1 six
ÝC M W Read c Naved-ul-Hasan b Abdul Razzaq 13
9 min, 11 balls, 2 fours
S I Mahmood not out 0
4 min, 1 ball
Extras (b1 lb7 w2 nb1) 11
Total (for 7, 81 min, 20 overs) 144
Fall: 1-39 (Bell) 2-40 (Pietersen) 3-40 (Strauss) 4-50 (Collingwood) 5-97 (Trescothick) 6-114 (Dalrymple) 7-130 (Read).
Did not bat: D Gough, S C J Broad.
Bowling: Shoaib Akhtar 4-0-31-1 (3-0-22-1, 1-0-9-0); Mohammad Asif 4-1-21-2 (one spell); Naved-ul-Hasan 4-0-26-1 (nb1) (3-0-21-1, 1-0-5-0); Shahid Afridi 4-0-28-0 (w2) (one spell); Abdul Razzaq 4-0-30-3 (3-0-17-2, 1-0-13-1).
Progress: 50: 34 min, 49 balls. 100: 59 min, 90 balls.
Trescothick's 50: 53 min, 33 balls, 9 fours.
Shoaib Malik lbw b Broad 16
14 min, 16 balls, 2 fours
Mohammad Hafeez run out (Collingwood) 46
70 min, 40 balls, 5 fours
Younis Khan c Read b Broad 0
1 min, 1 ball,
Shahid Afridi c Yardy b Dalrymple 28
15 min, 10 balls, 5 fours, 1 six
Mohammad Yousuf c Bell b Yardy 20
17 min, 19 balls, 2 fours, 1 six
*Inzamam-ul-Haq not out 11
27 min, 15 balls, 1 six
Abdul Razzaq not out 17
7 min, 7 balls, 4 fours
Extras (lb2 w7 nb1) 10
Total (for 5, 78 min, 17.5 overs) 148
Fall: 1-23 (Shoaib Malik) 2-23 (Younis Khan) 3-67 (Shahid Afridi) 4-101 (Mohammad Yousuf) 5-127 (Mohammad Hafeez).
Did not bat: ÝKamran Akmal, Naved-ul-Hasan, Shoaib Akhtar, Mohammad Asif.
Bowling: Gough 3.5-0-33-0 (w1) (2-0-17-0, 1.5-0-16-0); Broad 4-0-35-2 (one spell); Mahmood 3-0-29-0 (nb1 w3) (1-0-22-0, 2-0-7-0); Dalrymple 2-0-10-1 (w2); Yardy 3-0-20-1 (w1); Collingwood 2-0-19-0 (one spell each).
Progress: 50: 23 min, 32 balls. 100: 49 min, 69 balls.
Pakistan win by five wickets
Man of the match: Shahid Afridi.
Umpires: P J Hartley and N J Llong.
TV replay umpire: I J Gould.
Match referee: M J Procter (SA).Reuse content