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21 February, 2012

England won by 4 wickets

Pakistan v England, 4th ODI, Dubai

Pietersen key after spinners strike

The Report by Andrew McGlashan
February 21, 2012
Pakistan's spinners gave their team a chance of avoiding a whitewash by taking advantage of a wearing surface to leave England's pursuit of 238 in the balance. Two wickets in three balls for Saeed Ajmal gave Pakistan the edge and left Kevin Pietersen, unbeaten with a half-century, needing to produce another matchwinning innings

After two quiet games Ajmal was back at the forefront of England's problems as one of five spin options for Misbah-ul-Haq. In his third over he removed Eoin Morgan lbw when the left hander missed a sweep. Morgan, who had move briskly to 15, considered using a review but, as replays soon showed, wisely headed straight for the dressing room as the ball struck him in line with off stump.

Two balls later and Jos Buttler's first innings in ODIs was ended via an inside edge onto the pad that looped to short leg. Buttler's appearance had been eagerly anticipated following an impressive Lions tour in Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, but Ajmal is a class apart from the spinners he'll have faced on those trips. He'll get plenty more chances.

For the first time in this series England's innings didn't get a solid base. Alastair Cook, having made 319 runs in the previous three innings, was lbw second ball having cut the opening delivery of the chase from Junaid Khan through point. Junaid, the lone quick in Pakistan's team, successfully lobbied to use the DRS after Cook had initially been given not out although Misbah's request was half-hearted at best.

The early boundaries of the chase came from Jonathan Trott as he drove Junaid and clipped Abdur Rehman who had been given the new ball against Pietersen. Soon, though, Pietersen made his mark as he advanced down the pitch at Rehman and twice drove Ajmal exquisitely through the covers.

Trott had eased to 11 off 13 balls but could only managed four from his next 17, which was threatening to put the pressure back on Pietersen, before he top-edged a pull against Rehman. Ajmal's impact then left England needing a period of consolidation to keep the target within sight.

Craig Kieswetter, still settling into his new home in the middle order, wasn't convincing against spin but between the edges, jabs and appeals began to find the boundary. Pietersen, riding on the confidence of his hundred three days ago, continued to play the lead role as he reached fifty from 66 balls. Both sides knew his presence was crucial to the outcome.

Pakistan 237 (Shafiq 65, Azhar 58, Dernbach 4-45) v England
Pakistan's brittle line-up failed to make the most of a solid base provided by Azhar Ali and Asad Shafiq during the final ODI in Dubai to leave England well-place for a whitewash. Azhar and Shafiq, the future of Pakistan's batting, added 111 for the second wicket but England's reshuffled bowling attack, including debutant Danny Briggs and the recalled Jade Dernbach, stifled the middle order with Misbah-ul-Haq left to gather what he could.

It was another tale of Pakistan's batsmen failing to build on starts as four of them passed 20 but none bettered Shafiq's confident 65. On a surface being used for the second time in three days it was difficult for new batsmen to force the pace straight away, demonstrated by the way the innings fell away. England's bowling effort wasn't quite as slick as the previous three games, but without the resting James Anderson and Stuart Broad it was a performance that further demonstrated the depth available. Briggs claimed a commendable 2 for 39 and Dernbach 4 for 45 as he cleaned up the lower order with Pakistan losing their last six wickets for 35 runs.

There were plenty of team changes for both sides; England due to injury and rotation, Pakistan largely because of form and an illness sweeping through the team. Briggs and Jos Buttler, the Somerset wicketkeeper-batsman, were handed ODI debuts and Tim Bresnan was given his first outing of the tour. Pakistan shuffled their pack again, opting for just one quick bowler, the left-armer Junaid Khan, on a surface being used for the second time and expected to aid the spinners, of which Pakistan played five.

Dernbach made an immediate impact on his return to England colours when he struck second ball to have Mohammad Hafeez caught behind. Dernbach had a difficult tour of India, where his obsession with variation worked against him, and then had a tough experience in Australia's Big Bash League where he was dropped after two games for Melbourne Stars.

Consistency still proved Dernbach an occasional problem as a wide delivery was driven through the covers by Shafiq and in the same over he was flicked through square leg. He returned in the bowling Powerplay and two further overs cost 12 during which time Shafiq went to his half-century from 59 balls, but also maintained the happy knack of picking up wickets when he had Azhar athletically caught at point by Eoin Morgan.

Bresnan was also a touch expensive in his first international spell of the tour following the elbow injury which kept him out of the Test series. Azhar, promoted to open in place of Imran Farhat, who has a groin strain, latched on to two short deliveries and Bresnan's three-over burst cost 20 runs.

Both batsmen allied the solid defence that they had shown during the Test series with an aggressive intent which put the pressure back on to England's bowlers. Shafiq had the perfect opportunity, against a weakened attack, to score his maiden ODI hundred but chopped on against Bresnan in the 23rd over. From there life became much tougher for Pakistan.

As Misbah had hinted at the toss, Umar Akmal was promoted to No. 4 with the chance to build an innings. However, he never gathered momentum and provided Briggs with his first international wicket when he lofted a catch to long-off. Briggs showed calmness and control in his first appearance, quickly recovering himself from a couple of loose deliveries against Azhar.

The scoring rate had seized up as Azhar approached his maiden ODI fifty and Shoaib Malik struggled to time the ball. The sense with Azhar, albeit in the very early stages of his career, is that he doesn't have a range of gears to move through in the one-day game. Malik does not have the excuse of inexperience to fall back on and his return to Pakistan colours has not been a happy one in this series. Having used up 33 deliveries for 23 he missed a sweep against Briggs in the left-armers last over.

Again the hope of late acceleration was in the hands of Shahid Afridi but he couldn't ignite and fell to a superb running catch at deep midwicket from Bresnan. Misbah remained solid, launching Samit Patel over long-on, and Abdur Rehman connected with a couple of swings but didn't do serious damage to England.

© ESPN EMEA Ltd

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