England 230 Pakistan 231-3: England and Flintoff crash down to earth

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The Independent Online

The BBC's Team of the Year were anything but yesterday at the Gaddafi Stadium. All the calmness, control and discipline that was present during Saturday's wonderful batting display was replaced by the dreaded inconsistency which continues to haunt the England one-day side.

To blame England's abject performance on a late-night appearance on BBC's Sports Personality of the Year show would be wrong. It had nothing to do with the beautiful slower ball from Shoaib Akhtar that deceived Marcus Trescothick; it had nothing to do with the throat ball from Shoaib which Andrew Strauss gloved behind, and it had nothing to do with the awful heave which resulted in Kevin Pietersen losing his off stump.

Only Andrew Flintoff will know whether the emotion of winning British sport's most prestigious award had any effect on his mistimed pull to mid-wicket, but one felt an anti-climactic total was pencilled in the scorecard before he took guard.

England's seven-wicket defeat would have been even more absolute but for a fighting 56 from Liam Plunkett. He has already highlighted his potential as a bowler and yesterday's resourceful display gave another glimpse of his talent. Vikram Solanki, England's Supersub, guided the fast bowler along and their 100-run partnership saved the tourists from embarrassment.

A total of 230 was never likely to test Pakistan, and a brilliant maiden one-day hundred from Kamran Akmal ensured a home win. Inzamam-ul-Haq completed the comfortable victory with 36 balls remaining when he nudged Paul Collingwood for a single.

England put the defeat down to the fact that they misjudged the pitch, but what it really came down to was an inconsistent England side not playing very well against a Pakistan team who were desperate to atone for their defeat in the opening match.

Duncan Fletcher, the England coach, and Marcus Trescothick, the stand-in captain, refused to blame the late night for the poor display. "I don't believe staying up had much to do with what happened," said Fletcher. "It had more to do with individuals not assessing the pitch correctly. It was a different pitch to the one we used on Saturday and we went out there with the idea that we had to get over 300 [but] 280 would have been a decent score on that pitch."

There was little that Trescothick or Strauss could have done about the Shoaib deliveries that sent them back to the dressing-room. That brought in Pietersen, who is struggling with a rib injury. Indeed, if the cortisone injection he received last night fails to relieve his pain, he too could be on an early flight back to England. Fletcher will be wise to have a quiet word in Pietersen's ear because yesterday's innings of 28 was dreadful. He could have been out on numerous occasions before Rana Naved-ul-Hasan uprooted his off-stump. There is nothing wrong with being positive but this was reckless and his innings showed little regard for the team.

Flintoff was slightly unfortunate to toe a Rana long hop to mid-wicket and Matthew Prior played all around a straight ball from Abdul Razzaq.

Another well-directed Shoaib short ball ended Geraint Jones' stay and Ian Blackwell did not seem too interested in an Shoaib delivery which knocked his off-stump out of the ground.

Paul Collingwood then chipped a soft catch back to Danish Kaneria and England were 130 for 8 but the intelligent batting of Solanki and Plunkett showed that this was no terror track and their partnership was only broken by the belated return of Shoaib.

If England were to defend 230 they needed early wickets. Flintoff ran in hard, trying to prove that the late night had not affected him, and Trescothick tried everything he could to unsettle the Pakistan batsmen, but the home side nonchalantly reached their target.