At last, an interminable season and an agonising month have ended. And on a warm, tense and thrilling night England found enough of the right stuff to finish in style.
There might have been a sense that the whole sorry mess was being put out of its misery but as it turned out the final match of the NatWest Series and of the summer was a rousing affair for much of its course. It turned on two key, though not solitary, contributions which ensured that a Pakistan touring side desperately seeking redemption through victory were defeated by 121 runs with 15 overs left.
Eoin Morgan made his third limited-overs century of the year to ensure England had a total that it was possible to defend. His unbeaten 107 contained only eight fours and one six but it also took only 101 balls as he ran his opponents to distraction.
In response to a score of 256 for six which under floodlights at this time of year entered the realms of formidable, Pakistan began at a lick. England were not panicked into altering their strategy or their focus, recovered well, fielded like tigers and got a lucky decision. They were also rewarded by a riveting spell of off-spin bowling (another riveting spell, that is) by Graeme Swann. He took his obligatory wicket in his first over, added two more and was quite delectable to watch as he took three for 26 in nine overs. It used to be a worry that off-spin bowling would become extinct. Swann has not only brought it back from the dead but given it wings.
The toss bordered on crucial. Floodlit matches at the Rose Bowl have been won before by the side batting second – by Pakistan four years ago for a start – but the previous two matches in this series had indicated the lie of the land. Their bowlers had proved irresistible as the second innings wore on and they had drawn level at 2-2 as a result.
There was no mistaking Andrew Strauss's pleasure when the coin landed his way but he avoided a jig of delight. It has not been that kind of month.
The series had assumed the mantle of something much more than just another one-day tournament tagged on to the fag-end of the season. There had been so many allegations, some wild, some not and so much obvious acrimony that both sides were rather more than usually eager to win.
England began brightly enough, as they have done for most of the series, until Steve Davies injudiciously stepped down the track and was stumped. Davies has done adequately but not quite lived up to his glittering start.
Shortly, England were in trouble as Shoaib Akhtar again rolled back the years with some blistering pace. As if being 47 for three was not bad enough, England soon had Paul Collingwood suffering from a migraine and Ian Bell from a groin strain. Collingwood had to leave the field, Bell needed a runner.
These were unpropitious circumstances for Morgan, who came out when Collingwood went off, but he revels in them. Bell's departure brought Collingwood back out, the ache having cleared, and their partnership for the fifth wicket raised 93 from 104 balls.
Morgan was again magnificent. When he bats there is a place for everything and everything is in its place. He never looks ruffled or in a hurry and yet he never lets opponents settle. What a difference he has made to England's batting order in the year since he first played.
Joined by Tim Bresnan for the final thrash he reached his hundred with successive straight hits for six and four. If it seemed as if England had enough, the manner in which Karan Akmal and Mohammad Hafeez went about their work might have made them think twice. They romped to 50 from 45 balls with ten fours.
But Stuart Broad took two quick wickets and then Kamran was wrongly given out lbw by umpire Ian Gould despite his inside edge. Runs, once so free-flowing, dried up. Swann's sweet intervention destroyed Pakistan's middle order. England had their sixth home series win of the summer. And that really was that.
Rose Bowl scoreboard
The Rose Bowl: England won by 121 runs; England won toss
*A J Strauss c Akmal b Akhtar 25/1/2/35
†S M Davies st Akmal b Hafeez 17/0/3/19
I J L Trott b Akhtar 3/0/0/6
I R Bell b Afridi 28/0/2/52
P D Collingwood b Gul 47/0/0/71
E J G Morgan not out 107/1/8/101
L J Wright b Akhtar 1/0/0/4
T T Bresnan not out 18/0/2/12
Extras (lb 5, w 5) 10
Total (6 wkts, 50 overs)/256
Fall 1-31, 2-46, 3-47, 4-106, 5-199, 6-202.
Did Not Bat G P Swann, S C J Broad, J M Anderson.
Bowling S Akhtar 10-0-40-3, A Razzaq 3-0-26-0, M Hafeez 9-1-40-1, U Gul 10-1-55-1, S Ajmal 8-0-50-0, S S M K Afridi 10-0-40-1.
†K Akmal lbw b Wright 41/0/6/53
M Hafeez c Collingwood b Broad 29/0/5/42
A Shafiq c Davies b Broad 0/0/0/1
M Yousuf b Swann 20/0/0/43
F Alam b Swann 1/0/0/5
U Akmal c & b Collingwood 19/0/1/34
*S S M K Afridi b Swann 0/0/0/1
A Razzaq not out 11/0/0/27
U Gul run out 6/0/1/13
S Ajmal run out 1/0/0/2
S Akhtar c Morgan b Broad 0/0/0/2
Extras (lb 4, w 2, nb 1) 7
Total (37 overs)/135
Fall 1-63, 2-63, 3-80, 4-83, 5-104, 6-104, 7-121, 8-130, 9-135, 10-135.
Bowling T T Bresnan 7-0-31-0, J M Anderson 6-1-26-0, S C J Broad 8-1-24-3, L J Wright 6-0-16-1, G P Swann 9-0-26-3, P D Collingwood 1-0-8-1.
Umpires B R Doctrove & I J Gould.
England win the series 3-2Reuse content