England beats Pakistan comfortably by 9 wickets in the first of the three-match series currently being played in England.
Although England had the advantage of home ground, the team’s performance came as a surprise considering the turn of events right before the match when the squad had to be completely changed.
All-rounder Lewis Gregory, Fast Bowler Brydon Carse, Wicket-keeper John Simpsons, and Openers Zak Crawley and Phil Salt were all making their debut, that too with only one training session with the rest of the squad.
But it was the 24-year-old British-Pakistani Saqib Mahmood playing his 5th ODI that shook the Pakistani Batting lineup.
The match began with Ben Stokes winning the toss and electing to field.
Opening favorite Imam-ul-Haq and the no.1 ODI batsmen Babar Azam returned to the pavilion without bothering the scorecards thanks to the fast bowling of Saqib Mahmood.
It was all downhill from there. No player could make their mark on the crease and the highest score for Pakistan was by Fakhar Zaman who scored 47 runs including 6 fours.
Saqib Mahmood took 4 wickets for 42 runs making him the highest wicket-taker of the match from England’s side.
— Cricfolks (@cricfolks) July 8, 2021
England’s reply was strong and clear and was able to easily get the target of 142 runs with 9 wickets in hand.
Saqib was declared the player of the match. When asked about his performance, he narrated how he had confidence in his game although he didn’t get to practice much with the squad.
He also talked about how it was all very sudden and that he received a text message from England’s Head Coach Chris Silverwood just two days before the match.
He was still asleep when he got the message that he’ll be playing against Pakistan two days later.
He was able to showcase his talent and it is this confidence that led his ‘C category’ team to win against Pakistan. It goes to show just how well England has improved in white-ball cricket where even new upcoming players have the skills and tactics to win matches against experienced teams.
Making the best of the circumstances
Ben stokes will surely be pleased with the overall performance, considering the way the team was planned at the last minute when England’s entire ODI team was forced into isolation where as many as seven members of the squad and the management tested Covid positive two days before the first match against Pakistan.
What resulted was a squad that contained 5 new members, making it the least experienced England team to play in 36 years.
The players were asked on such short notice that even Stokes himself forgot their names when he was asked about the new squad post toss.
However, luck seemed to be in their favor as Saqib stood strong for his team under the circumstances.
On the loss, Babar commented, “We knew some of them but others were new faces. Now we have seen and played with them, will try to perform better in the coming matches”.
How well does the team indeed performs will be decided on Saturday when the two teams once again come head to head in Lords.
From Pakistan, for Pakistan, and against Pakistan
Ironically, Saqib Mahmood is not only a British-Pakistani but has also played in the Pakistan Super League. He was part of the squad of Peshawar Zalmi under the captaincy of Wahab Riaz where he played with experienced bowlers like Hassan Ali and polished his skills.
His family is basically from Attock and has a lot of admiration for Pakistan and Peshawar Zalmi. During one of the interviews, he expressed his excitement saying that “It has been 10 years since I’ve come to Pakistan and I’m glad I got the opportunity to come and play cricket here.”
Since his parents are from Pakistan, his heritage became a hindrance for him earlier in his career when he could not join his team to play in India during their tour in 2019 due to visa issues.
However that did not stop him from advancing in his career, and by the end of 2019, had made his international debuts in test, one day and t20.
The 24-year old is a right-arm first bowler and looks like a promising future for England’s team.