After all of the hullabaloo after their victory over Australia on Saturday, after all of the former captains that crowd the commentary boxes and airwaves had lauded their team and hailed the coming of the New England in ODI cricket; with the home advantage and the luck running firmly in their favour, the England team still found a way to cock it up and fall convincingly and embarrassingly to the unpredictable Pakistan team in their semi-final overnight. And there are few more enjoyable sights in world cricket than the England team imploding.
It didn’t auger well for Pakistan early. Jonny Bairstow had replaced Jason Roy at the top of the order, and second ball was plumb LBW to Junaid but was given not out by umpire Erasmus. The review was called for, and only an umpire’s call on the ball hitting the stumps saved Bairstow, and also cost Pakistan their only review, with 48.4 overs to go. Then Hales was palpably LBW to the debutant Raees, only for the decision to be overturned on review. Bairstow was then dropped to a hot chance at mid-wicket, and another hot chance to slip that almost rebounded to gully. His 43 off 57 when he finally holed out to deep mid-wicket needed to be a lot more beneficial to his side. At 2/128 in the 28th over it became a familiar tale in recent times. Root cut a long hop from the leg spinner Shadap into the keepers gloves, Morgan threw his wicket away charging down the wicket ala David Warner, and the rest of the batting crumbled under the sustained pressure of a bowling attack without Mohammed Amir through injury. The lauded Ben Stokes could only manage 34 from 64 as England was bowled out for 211. Highlighting the effort from Pakistan was some excellent fielding in a complete reversal from their opening match against India.
The game never appeared in doubt once Fakhar Zaman started his usual blaze at the top of the order, and when he was dismissed for 57 off 58 balls Pakistan was already 1/118 off 21 overs. The throttle was never released, even when Azhar Ali finally fell for 76. Babar Azam and Mohammed Hafeez finished the job in style, and Pakistan won by 8 wickets with almost 13 overs to spare in a crushing victory.
Pakistan move to Sunday’s final, ranked 8th in the ODI rankings before this tournament and only scraping into the tournament in front of the West Indies. The relative short sprint of the tournament does allow for such anomalies to occur. However, just like South Africa’s continued obliteration in ICC tournaments, England’s fall once again means that, at least for part of the cricketing landscape, nothing much has changed.