Polished England revel in their own reflection

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Cricket

Pakistan 225-5 England 226-5 England win by five wickets

In late afternoon, the summer sun can shine straight down this Old Trafford pitch, blinding batsmen with its mirror-like surface. Yesterday, although that surface was cracked and quartered like a Roman mosaic, England, for once, were able to see their reflection without turning away in disgust, easily beating Pakistan by five wickets in the first one-day international.

As they are so often inclined to do in these Texaco Matches, England totally outplayed the opposition, once again showing a panache for this sort of cricket that does not travel well abroad. For once, all facets of their game looked polished and, although the home side owed much to Aamir Sohail's funereal 48 off 117 balls, Atherton's men can take much credit for the upbeat way in which they approached this match.

Chasing a total of 225, on a pitch that threatened Jurassic Park, but played more like Sabina, the England skipper chose to open with Alec Stewart and Nick Knight, and drop himself to No 3. It was obvious that a crisp start was needed, and Stewart was patently the man for the job.

He delivered, too, belting both Wasim and Waqar for fours in the opening overs as he and Knight, reinstated to the opening role he fills for Warwickshire, put on 57 in the first 10 overs. So assured were the pair at puncturing Wasim's carefully set field that he was forced to turn to the off-spin of Saqlain Mushtaq as early as the 10th over.

Saqlain is a fine bowler, but his absence from the important cricket of the tour will not have helped him on his early introduction here and he was never allowed to settle. Instead, Wasim ought to have turned to Mushtaq Ahmed, though, like those of Waqar, he probably wanted to save the leg-spinner's overs to exert pressure later in the day.

It was a fine balancing act that could have gone Pakistan's way had Wasim managed to cling on to a sharp chance from Stewart, offered soon after the bowler had removed Knight, caught behind trying to guide the ball away to third man.

However, with Atherton quick to rotate the strike, England never trod water. Instead, Stewart's demise, leg before trying to flick Waqar to leg for 48, saw Atherton launch a controlled sortie of his own.

A 48-run partnership with Graham Thorpe gave way to one of 54 shared with Matthew Maynard, as England's captain controlled the match. But, although both batsmen were guilty of getting out before the end, the hard work had been done.

Earlier, England's bowling, particularly in the first 15 overs, was admirably straight. In the circumstances, little more was required and, although Saeed Anwar was in sublime touch, his opening partner Aamir looked as if he was conducting a go-slow after Wasim had won the toss and batted.

After 10 overs, the Pakistan vice-captain had ground his way to just a single run with the rangy left-arm bowling of Alan Mullally, like a Gary Kasparov attack on an opponent's Queen, slowly pushing him into a corner, his options disappearing by the ball. When Mullally rested, he had conceded 11 runs from seven overs, a remarkable analysis considering the fielding restrictions in place.

And yet, while Aamir scratched, blocked and missed, Saeed, with his supple squash player's wrists, improvised with the confidence of a man in prime form. By the time Ronnie Irani came on, he had quite obviously decided to go it alone, striking the Essex all-rounder's second ball over the top for four. Irani, however gained his revenge when, attempting to repeat the shot some overs later, Saeed was caught by Mullally for 57.

Irani, whose bowling is the weaker of his suits, lacked the required zip for this surface and his 10 overs were the most expensive in the match, costing 56 runs. A figure almost matched by Dean Headley, whose wicketless debut did not highlight the Kent bowler's undoubted talent.

Robert Croft, England's other one-day debutant - like his showing at The Oval - made a far deeper impression. He appears, despite the oohing and aahing that accompanies almost every ball, to have a marvellous temperament and nous for this level of cricket.

He appears to sense changes in a batsman's gameplan like a bloodhound sniffing the air, and he bowled both Aamir and Wasim, just as they sought to collar him. Only a late onslaught by Inzamam-ul-Haq, who scored an unbeaten 37, brought Pakistan's score to respectability. But, although no one knew it then, it was not quite respectable enough.

Henry Blofeld, page 22

Old Trafford scoreboard

Pakistan won toss

PAKISTAN

Saeed Anwar c Mullally b Irani 57

89 min, 75 balls, 7 fours

Aamir Sohail b Croft 48

146 min, 117 balls, 2 fours

Ijaz Ahmed c Irani b Mullally 48

78 min, 56 balls, 4 fours

*Wasim Akram b Croft 6

8 min, 6 balls, 1 four

Inzamam-ul-Haq not out 37

41 min, 28 balls, 4 fours

Moin Khan b Gough 10

14 min, 9 balls, 2 fours

Salim Malik not out 6

13 min, 9 balls

Extras (b2, lb4, w7) 13

Total (for 5, 198 min, 50 overs) 225

Fall: 1-82 (Saeed Anwar), 2-141 (Aamir Sohail), 3-160 (Wasim Akram), 4-174 (Ijaz Ahmed), 5-203 (Moin Khan).

Did not bat: Saqlain Mushtaq, Mushtaq Ahmed, Waqar Younis, Ata-ur-Rehman.

Bowling: Gough 10-0-44-1 (w2) (5-0-16-0, 2-0-8-0, 3-0-20-1); Mullally 10-3-31-1 (7-3-11-0, 3-0-20-1); Headley 10-0-52-0 (w3) (4-0-17-0, 4-0-18-0, 2-0- 17-0); Irani 10-0-56-1 (w2) (7-0-35-1, 2-0-15-0, 1-0-6-0); Croft 10-1- 36-2 (8-1-24-0, 2-0-12-2).

Progress: 50: 64 min, 101 balls. 100: 107 min, 169 balls. 150: 151 min, 239 balls. 200: 183 min, 280 balls.

Saeed Anwar's 50: 76 min, 64 balls, 7 fours.

ENGLAND

N V Knight c Moin Khan b Wasim Akram 26

43 min, 34 balls, 2 fours

A J Stewart lbw b Waqar Younis 48

85 min, 58 balls, 5 fours

*M A Atherton b Wasim Akram 65

117 min, 93 balls, 5 fours

G P Thorpe st Moin Khan b Aamir Sohail 23

40 min, 32 balls

M P Maynard b Wasim Akram 41

55 min, 53 balls, 1 four, 1 six

G D Lloyd not out 2

23 min, 15 balls

R C Irani not out 6

2 min, 2 balls, 1 four

Extras (lb4, w7, nb4) 15

Total (for 5, 185 min, 46.4 overs) 226

Fall: 1-57 (Knight), 2-98 (Stewart), 3-146 (Thorpe), 4-200 (Atherton), 5-220 (Maynard).

Did not bat: R D B Croft, D Gough, D W Headley, A D Mullally.

Bowling: Wasim Akram 9.4-1-45-3 (nb3, w2) (6-0-28-1, 3-1-9-1, 0.4-0-8- 1); Waqar Younis 7-0-28-1 (3-0-13-0, 3-0-10-1, 1-0-5-0); Saqlain Mushtaq 10-1-54-0 (nb3, w1) (6-1-33-0, 4-0-21-0); Ata-ur-Rehman 3-0-14-0 (w1) (one spell); Mushtaq Ahmed 10-0-52-0 (w2) (8-0-43-0, 2-0-9-0); Aamir Sohail 7-1-29-1 (nb1) (one spell).

Progress: 50: 39 min, 58 balls. 100: 90 min, 126 balls. 150: 131 min, 198 balls. 200: 160 min, 252 balls.

Atherton's 50: 99 min, 81 balls, 3 fours.

ENGLAND WON BY FIVE WICKETS

Umpires: N T Plews and G Sharp. TV replay umpire: J W Holder.

Match referee: P L Van der Merwe.

Man of the match: M A Atherton. Adjudicator: Mushtaq Mohammad.

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