THE Texaco Trophy may not represent much of a consolation prize for the World Cup and a summer of exploding stumps and inswinging toe-crushers, but England, to give them their due, certainly plonked it on to the sideboard with no little style.
Twenty-one years have gone by since the first pebble in the avalanche of one-day internationals, and not one of them has produced a higher total than England's 363 for 7 here yesterday. It may not have been a triumph for youth policy (Dominic Cork and Dermot Reeve were probably omitted on the grounds that neither could forge their birth certificates to register an age of 30) but a position of three up with two to play might just qualify them for a game at Lord's tomorrow.
If Pakistan's two defeats back in May could be put down to the absence of Waqar Younis and Wasim Akram, there was no such excuse yesterday, and they conceded 128 runs between them. Given those figures, it was scarcely surprising that Pakistan's problem fifth bowler - an amalgam of Ijaz Ahmed, Asif Mujtaba and Aamir Sohail - returned a combined analysis of 11-0-106-0. Pakistan's solitary bowling triumph, in fact, was Mushtaq Ahmed, who yesterday delivered the only maiden that Pakistan have managed in the entire Texaco series.
Salim Malik, standing in as captain when Javed Miandad withdrew because of a stomach ailment, won the toss, and his decision to bowl first was presumably prompted by a glance at an overcast sky. Thereafter, Salim spent a good deal of his time gazing skywards, waiting for cricket balls to return from orbit. In addition to 28 fours, England's batsmen also struck seven sixes.
For some reason, perhaps because this competition does not provide an old enough ball for Waqar and Wasim, there was precious little evidence of the wicked late swing that finally unhinged England in the Test series. The only ball that swung appreciably did so after passing the bat, and went for four byes. It just about summed up Pakistan's day.
The tourists, who proved earlier this year that you require neither agility in the field nor a tight grip on the extras to win World Cups, were at their profligate best again yesterday. England rarely took a sharp single without the expectation that Pakistan might turn it into a five, and the wides and no- balls turned England's innings into something closer to 60 overs than 55.
It was in a pukka 60-over game, during the first World Cup in 1975, that England recorded their previous highest score in a one-day international, 334 against India. The previous highest in any one-day game was the West Indies' 360 against Sri Lanka in Karachi four years ago, which England eventually eclipsed off the penultimate ball of their innings.
Whatever Pakistan's shortcomings, and there were many, this was no mean achievement. Graham Gooch and Alec Stewart, the latter surviving a dropped catch in the gully when only three, got them off and running with an opening partnership of 84 in 17 overs, and the rest of the innings was as close to carnage as makes no difference.
With Wasim dropping too short, Mushtaq's subtle variations involving not so much the googly and flipper as long hop and wide half-volley, and the three make-up bowlers sending down an assortment of indescribable rubbish, Pakistan did not so much resemble World Cup champions as a side that would have trouble holding their own in the Nottingham and District League.
Robin Smith and Neil Fairbrother each hit two sixes in a third-wicket stand that yielded 129 in 18 overs, and Graeme Hick and Ian Botham struck three between them in a fifth-wicket liaison worth 84 in eight overs.
Hick may not be much of a Test batsman, but he is as violent an executioner of nothing bowling as any player in the world, and after taking 71 from 51 balls in the second Texaco game at The Oval, his 63 yesterday came off only 42.
Neither did his position at No 6 do him any favours. By the time he came in, Pakistan had more or less bowled out their part-timers, and Waqar, pawing the ground at the pavilion end, looked in danger of drowning in his own saliva. However, Hick gave him a rare old going over, and his flat-batted cover boundary off Waqar's chest-high full toss was the pick of a series of extraordinary shots.
Even on a blameless pitch, there are two ways to go against a total of 363; make a fist of it and fail, or make a porridge of it and fail. From the moment they lost Ramiz Raja to the second ball of the innings, Pakistan were irrevocably locked into the latter.
Within seven overs they were 27 for 3, and with no Javed to knock the bowlers out of a rhythm, it was never a contest. Inzamam-ul-Haq offered some indication of Pakistan's dazed state of mind when he appeared not so much to be attempting a second run as taking the dog for a walk, and was beaten by Hick's direct hit. Salim, their only real hope of respectability, was caught aiming an ugly smear at Richard Illingworth, and the contest, if such it can be called, ultimately died of tedium.
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