A balanced effort by Pakistani batsmen and a brilliant spell of death bowling by 'comeback kid' Wahab Riaz helped their side register an upset 14-run win over England in their crucial World Cup 2019 encounter at Trent Bridge in Nottingham on Monday.
After England won the toss and opted to field first, Fakhar Zaman and Imamul Haq opened Pakistan's innings whereas Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer shared the new ball for the hosts.
Zaman and Imam, after failing in the defeat to West Indies in the opening game, provided Pakistan with a solid start.
The southpaw duo's strategy early on was to respect Archer and go after Woakes — a plan that worked out pretty well as the tourists were 31-0 after 5 overs and 69-0 after 10.
Runs started to dry up after the introduction of off-spinner Moeen Ali, who also got his side the breakthrough on the opening ball of the 15th over. Zaman (36 off 40) was the one to go; he was out stumped. following which Babar Azam joined Imam in the middle.
After the first 15 overs, the score stood at 85-1, with the run-rate a tad on the slower side but on the bright side, Pakistan still had nine wickets in hand.
The next five overs did not see too much action as the two batters seemed content on keeping their wickets. However, the need to accelerate forced Imam to take some risk on the first ball of the 21st over. His gamble seemed to have paid off, only for Woakes to take a stunning diving catch that he had no business taking. Imam (44 off 58) missed out on his maiden World Cup half century.
Jason Roy, however, returned the favour, dropping the easiest of Mohammad Hafeez's catches in the 25th over.
At the halfway mark, the Men in Green were 141-2 and on course to posting a decent total but would it be decent enough for the mighty hosts?
Azam revved up the scoring in the 27th over, plundering Adil Rashid for 14 runs made up of three boundaries. In the next over he completed his first World Cup 50. At the end of 30 overs, Pakistan were 176-2 and scoring at almost the rate of six an over.
At this point, Pakistan were going pretty strong and that made former England captain Michael Vaughan nervous.
Just when Azam seemed set for a big score, folks on Twitter jinxed it for him.
He was holed out at long-on on the bowling of Ali. Azam finished with 63 off 66 balls laced with four boundaries and a six. Captain Sarfaraz Ahmed walked in.
Hafeez found two boundaries in the 34th over to quietly bring up his 50. Sarfaraz, meanwhile, hit a four on the final ball of the 35th over bowled by Ali.
With 15 overs left, Pakistan were 218-3 and targeting a score around 350. Surprisingly, the Greenshirts did not enter slog mode in the next five despite wickets in hand, instead opting to keep on picking their spots where they could and going in a cautioned, systematic manner.
Hafeez's brilliant 62-ball 84-run knock came to an end in the 43 over, following which Asif Ali — just the man for the situation — walked in.
But Ali could only hit one of his trademark sixes before being caught in deep cover on the first ball of the 47th. The experienced Shoaib Malik walked in.
Sarfaraz (55 off 44) also completed his half century before being dismissed in the 48th over when trying to play some big shots. Wahab Riaz was promoted up the order. He hit a boundary but was out the same over, bowled by Woakes.
In the end, Pakistani tail did enough to finish with 348-8 in their allotted 50 overs. Archer, billed as the biggest threat to Pakistani batters due to his pace and bounce, had an unforgettable outing. He finished wicketless and gave away 79 runs in his quota of 10 overs.
Shadab Khan bowled the first over and was dispatched for two boundaries by Jason Roy. The young legspinner, however, had the last laugh as he trapped the English opener in front of the wickets on the first ball of the 3rd over. The English also lost the review which further sweetened the blow.
Mohammad Amir was impressive in his first over, with his first ball almost undoing Jonny Bairstow. The pacer was dispatched for a four on the final ball though.
While Shadab had gotten the side the breakthrough, he was proving to be a bit expensive, which is always a risk with leggies. In the 5th over, he was clobbered for a six by Bairstow.
Amir was unlucky in the 6th when he produced the edge from Joe Root but the catch was put down by Babar Azam in the slip.
Wahab Riaz was brought into the attack and as expected he was expensive in the over. But also, as expected, he picked up a wicket, forcing the dangerous Bairstow to nick one back to the keeper in the 9th over.
Eoin Morgan was the next man in, and he and Root made sure that their side went into the drinks break with no further setbacks. However, Hafeez struck right after the break, bowling out Morgan in the 15th over.
In the 22nd over, Ben Stokes (13) nicked one back to the keeper as Pakistan tightened their grip on the match. However, Root and Jos Buttler kept England in the hunt and surely but steadily boosted the score to 187-4 at the end of 30 overs.
The two masterfully dealt with whatever Pakistani bowlers hurled at them, with Root also bringing up his ton. Their partnership ended in the 39th over when Shadab struck again. He could have another had Sarfaraz not missed a stumping chance of Moeen Ali in the 41st over.
The game hung in the balance till the 48th over when Riaz removed both Ali and Woakes on back-to-back balls and swung the game in Pakistan's favour.
In the end, England fell 14 runs short and Pakistan snapped their 11-match winless streak. Hafeez was named the player of the match.
What do our readers think?
Dawn.com readers had little faith in Team Pakistan, with 66.36% of them voting "NO" when asked if they'd be able to bounce back against England after the Windies debacle. Less than 34% backed them for the win.
The trend, however, seemed to have reversed by the end of the first innings, with 65 per cent saying that Pakistan have enough on the board to beat England.
According to ESPNcricinfo, Skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed said that he had also wanted to bowl first.
"I wanted to bowl first too. It looks a good batting surface. The short-ball [versus] West Indies was just a one-off I think. We have played five ODIs — not thinking about the losses," he said.
His English counterpart Eoin Morgan said: "It [the pitch] looks very good. So, hopefully we play well enough today. We have one change: Liam Plunkett is out and Mark Wood comes in. It's because we want extra pace," the website reported.
Trent Bridge is renowned as a batsman's paradise, with England having twice set the world record for the highest score in a One-Day International — 444 for three against Pakistan in 2016 and last year's 481 for six — on the very pitch that will be used for today's match.
But Pakistan's batsmen had anything but an easy ride in Nottingham as they succumbed to a bouncer barrage from the West Indies that saw them slump to 105 all out and a comprehensive defeat in their opening match of the World Cup on Friday.
The green shirts may have lost their last 11 ODIs but bowling coach Azhar Mahmood says England must not forget his team's resilient performance in the Champions Trophy two years ago as the sides prepare to meet.
"We are one win away from coming back, and that's what happened in Champions Trophy," Mahmood said.
"We lost in Champions Trophy and then we come back hard. So whenever we have lost and we come back stronger, and we have the ability to bounce back," he added.
Pakistan beat England by eight wickets in the Champions Trophy semi-final in 2017 before a comprehensive victory over India in the final.
Their recent form, however, has been poor, including a 4-0 series defeat by England.
"We've lost 11 games in a row but in the five games we lost against Australia, we rested eight to nine players," Mahmood told a news conference on Sunday.
"So it was young team and we were trying different players, different combinations. Yes, against England we lost four games. But we were not far away. We just didn't win those crucial moments. They've played in England, so they have enough experience and motivation to go and win the game for Pakistan."
Mahmood dismissed suggestions that if Pakistan win, for the first time since beating South Africa in Johannesburg in January, it would be a major upset. "We can beat them," he said. "It's not an upset. We have the ability to beat them."
England, who launched their quest to win the World Cup for the first time with a 104-run rout of South Africa at the Oval in which fast bowler Jofra Archer starred may now, in the light of Pakistan's problems against short-pitched bowling, unleash Wood in partnership with the Sussex speedster.
Pakistan: Fakhar Zaman, Imamul-Haq, Babar Azam, Mohammad Hafeez, Sarfaraz Ahmed (capt&wk), Shoaib Malik, Asif Ali, Shadab Khan, Hasan Ali, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir
England: (Playing XI) Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan(capt), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler(wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood
With additional input from Reuters