A last-ball thriller saw England lose their third NatWest Series game in a row yesterday after Andy Caddick was last man out three runs short of victory. As Lord's held its collective breath for what seemed an age, Caddick charged Saqlain Mushtaq and was stumped, an ugly demise after Marcus Trescothick's brilliant 137 had brought an England win tantalisingly close.
Yet uglier still was the dissent shown by Waqar Younis and some of his team after the umpire Ken Palmer called a wide off Saqlain with five runs needed and three balls remaining. The ball, fired down the leg side, actually hit Alan Mullally's glove, a point Pakistan seemed unacceptably forceful in making. The extra ball made no difference and Saqlain saw his side home.
Yet close as the match appeared, and well though Trescothick and the new boy, Owais Shah, with 62, played, the inescapable fact is that England are not very good at this type of game. When the situation gets tight, panic sets in. Even Trescothick, who will rarely better this innings, was to blame. His sweep-slog off the second ball of the last over was unnecessary with just six runs needed, and the Somerset batsman was brilliantly caught at mid-wicket by Shahid Afridi, despite colliding with Yousuf Youhana. Had he stayed in, England would surely have reached their target.
They should have walked it much earlier. With 10 overs remaining and with Trescothick and Shah having built a 170-run partnership, England needed 40 runs with seven wickets remaining. Sixty balls later that target lay in ruins, poor shot selection and two silly run-outs accounting for the next seven wickets. Perhaps only Ben Hollioake out in a freakish manner after chopping a delivery from Waqar into the ground, only for the ball to bounce high into the air, spin backwards, bounce again and hit the stumps could count himself unlucky.
Some credit must go to Pakistan's fielders, who hit the stumps with direct throws three times out of three. When England fielded in the morning, after winning the toss, they missed five throws out of five, the only hit coming after the batsman was past the crease.
This defeat was England's eighth in a row, the worst one-day losing sequence in the team's history. Trescothick and Shah did set a more pleasing record, the highest fourth-wicket partnership, bettering the previous best of 154 held by Graeme Hick and Neil Fairbrother in Adelaide against Sri Lanka in January 1999. Unfortunately that paled after two unnecessary run-outs turned a breeze into a force-nine gale.
Although defeat sours such things, it was an impressive performance from both batsmen, who came together when the score was 26 for 3. Shah, in only his second match, probably feels a kinship with Trescothick. A year ago, the left-hander came in as a replacement, something Shah did three days ago.
From such small coincidences do fine players grow and there can be no denying Trescothick's pedigree now. His cover driving against the quick bowlers and his mauling of spin he hit three sixes was hugely impressive. If Shah was overawed by his partner, it did not show and he played second fiddle with as much virtuosity as he was allowed.
England were almost at full strength. The return of Caddick, after a back strain, gave them added bite with the new ball and the paceman finished with 2 for 37. With only Darren Gough threatening wickets in the first two matches, the bowling has looked threadbare, waiting for errors rather than forcing them.
The partnership renewed, Gough struck first when he had Saleem Elahi lbw, the batsman missing a pull. Replays showed that it hit Saleem, playing in place of Saeed Anwar who was with his sick daughter, outside the line of off-stump.
With umpires and their ages in the spotlight, the decision was made by Neil Mallender, a 39-year-old former Northamptonshire and England player, and not the 64-year-old Palmer at the other end. For those who feel many international umpires are past their sell by date, errors are not age specific.
There was not much doubt about the next wicket, Shahid, whose edged slash off Caddick found Trescothick at slip. In the previous over, Shahid had deposited Mullally for a huge six and his demise was greeted with relief.
Two balls later, Caddick struck again, bowling Inzamam-ul-Haq with a low, full toss that struck the base of leg stump. If the combination Caddick bowling a full toss and Inzamam missing one sounds improbable, the fact that the batsman tried to duck made it even more bizarre.
The key probably lies in the previous ball which reared up just under Inzamam's chin from short of a length. When that happens batsmen tend to look for the next ball off the pitch. But as Caddick did not pitch it, Inzamam instinctively ducked only to see his leg stump plucked from the ground and his second nought in successive games.
If England thought the game was half-won at that stage, they had not reckoned on Youhana, who shared stands of 80 with Younis Khan and 50 with Rashid Latif.
Youhana's shot selection was immaculate and it was only when he played an unseemly slog at Mullally that he fell. Top-edging high to mid-wicket, Shah was on hand to take the catch, a contribution the Middlesex man later trumped with his spirited innings.Reuse content