Knight makes a day of it

Texaco Trophy: England quick to take the initiative as whirlwind opening forces Pakistan into submission
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The Independent Online
The heat of Test battle may singe England's nerves, but in the relatively carefree atmosphere of one-day cricket they have proved very much Pakistan's superiors. After strolling to victory in the first of their three Texaco Trophy matches at Old Trafford on Thursday, they wrapped up the series yesterday in equally comprehensive fashion, winning by 107 runs with 12.1 overs to spare.

Everyone contributed on a day when England looked a team and Pakistan rather less of one, but there was no doubt that the individual honours went to Nick Knight, whose bold 113 formed the basis of an imposing total of 292 for eight. Any doubt that he would receive the man of the match award was removed when he took a splendid catch on the boundary to dismiss Wasim Akram at a time when Pakistan might still have pushed England hard.

Newer men were very much to the fore. Adam Hollioake, making his international debut, took four wickets for 23 runs; Robert Croft, with two for 37, maintained the form he had shown on his first Test appearance last week; and Ronnie Irani, while still not good enough at this level with the ball, hit an unbeaten 45 to help put England in a position from which Pakistan were always going to have difficulty dislodging them. Darren Gough's three for 39 put him right back in contention for a place on England's winter tours.

"We played with some style and a lot of purpose," David Lloyd, the England coach, said, glad to be back in the realm of the positive after the huge let-down of the Test-series defeat. Let nobody imagine, however, that these matches meant anything like as much to Pakistan as the Tests, and in their hearts England will know that. The indefatigable Mushtaq Ahmed apart, the Pakistani bowling was a shadow of its normal self, and when they batted only Ijaz Ahmed, with a hectic 79, and Saeed Anwar did so with any zeal.

Knight thus made his first one-day international century at only his second attempt, and following his maiden Test hundred at Headingley last month, it confirmed him as a player for whom opportunities are to be seized. With a big follow-through that reduces the element of risk when hitting on the up, Knight took advantage of the early fielding restrictions as he and Alec Stewart shared an opening partnership of 103 in 13 overs that largely set the tone for the day.

By the time Knight was fifth out in the 38th over, England were 221 for five and commandingly placed. An innings that lasted 132 balls and included 11 fours went down a storm with his home crowd, and after he had eventually gone, stumped off the off-spinner Saqlain Mushtaq, he was given a standing ovation all the way back to the pavilion.

England's innings did not go entirely to plan. Wasim Akram and Waqar Younis having been not so much seen off as hounded out of Birmingham, Mushtaq arrived on the scene like a wasp at a picnic. Stewart was bowled by one that, not for the first time this season, he failed to realise would come on to him rather than turn to off. Mike Atherton was similarly done for, although the way the ball was drifting to leg suggested that this was another slightly harsh lbw decision.

Mushtaq went on to complete a 10-over spell that cost a mere 33 runs and produced but a single four. Graham Thorpe, with a sweep, was responsible for that, but just as he looked ready to assert himself he was given out lbw to a ball from Ata-ur-Rehman which flicked his pad on the way through to the wicketkeeper - a decision he was clearly unhappy about. He may have thought he was being given out for a catch behind, and that was certainly what Ata and Moin Khan seemed to be appealing for.

The brief and panicky stay of Matthew Maynard ended after he set off for a run to Salim Malik at fly slip, and with Knight's departure the England innings again needed steadying without momentum being lost. Irani did the job admirably, with an innings that, with the exception of a six off Aamir Sohail, was low on spectacle but high on good sense.

England made a stirring start in the field, Sohail chipping a catch to mid-on in the first over, bowled by Darren Gough, and Alan Mullally having Moin Khan lbw in the second. From six for two, Pakistan rebuilt through Saeed and Ijaz until Saeed was caught at the wicket by the diving Stewart off the bowling of Gough.

That was 54 for three in the ninth over and a hugely important breakthrough. Still there was Ijaz, surely unmatched in his ability to cut balls that look too straight for such treatment. But Croft, having got the measure of Inzamam-ul-Haq, bowled him to make it 137 for five and all hope for Pakistan went when Wasim pulled Hollioake into Knight's hands at deep square- leg. Variety was the key to Hollioake's success, but he was never going to upstage Knight, whose catch to dismiss Ata fittingly completed what was a consoling result for England.

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