Belfast Telegraph

Monday 29 December 2014

Cricket: Morgan ends England's series with Pakistan on a high

Eoin Morgan scored his second century this year as England wrapped up a 3-2 series win
Eoin Morgan scored his second century this year as England wrapped up a 3-2 series win

Eoin Morgan's second Rose Bowl hundred of the summer helped England clinch the troubled NatWest Series 3-2 with a landslide 121-run victory over Pakistan.

England's mettle has been tested more than they could have imagined amid the ceaseless controversies of the past three weeks — yet thanks largely to Morgan, they recovered their composure on cue to halt Pakistan's fightback from 2-0 down.

They therefore achieved their ambition of six consecutive series victories, across all formats this summer, despite the unwanted and at times all-consuming distractions of spot-fixing crises which have dominated Pakistan's limited-overs campaign.

The tourists began their chase of 256 for six with a hectic opening stand but faltered alarmingly under lights as Stuart Broad and then Graeme Swann (three for 26) each put themselves on a hat-trick and all 10 wickets fell for 72 runs in an anti-climactic 135 all out in 37 overs.

But it was Morgan's unbeaten 107 — back at the scene of his match-winning hundred against Australia in June — which was the main reason for England's success.

Pakistan by contrast will have little to smile about as they board the plane back home tomorrow morning, after an arduous and hugely stressful three-month tour. Morgan and Paul Collingwood shared a fifth-wicket stand of 93, after Shoaib Akhtar (three for 40) had put England in an awkward spot in front of a noisy and partisan crowd.

Collingwood's innings was interrupted by a migraine, and Ian Bell needed a runner because of an apparent groin strain.

But Morgan was in rude health as he demonstrated his limited-overs prowess in a 97-ball century containing eight fours and a six.

After England had won an important toss on a glorious afternoon, Mohammad Hafeez broke an opening stand of 31 in the sixth over when Davies went down the pitch, missed an off-break and was stumped.

Veteran Shoaib was cranking up the pace like someone with several points to prove — and in an atmosphere verging on the poisonous, he made short work of Jonathan Trott.

The England number three was jeered and booed all the way to the crease by large Pakistani sections of a near sell-out crowd, who had clearly taken a dim view of Trott's pre-match bust-up with Wahab Riaz in the nursery end nets at Lord's on Monday.

Shoaib had beaten Strauss several times but saved his best for Trott, bowled by full-length pace and late movement — for his third successive single-figure score in this series.

An over later, Shoaib had his second wicket at the cost of only one run — Strauss finally nicking one behind, having played and missed several times.

Collingwood had to retire unwell, after scoring five, and it therefore fell to Bell and Morgan to dig in — which they did in a half-century partnership until the Warwickshire batsman was bowled via bat and pad on the back foot by Shahid Afridi.

Morgan was joined by Collingwood again with the score on 106, and the pair did well to get England into position to attack the last 10 overs.

Collingwood still had not managed a boundary when he fell three short of his 50, bowled trying to attack Gul in powerplay. But he had done the spadework for Morgan and Tim Bresnan's late charge, which culminated in 19 runs from Saeed Ajmal's last over.

Pakistan's rapid response soon had to be reassessed as wickets began to tumble. Hafeez and Kamran Akmal's 63-run opening stand ended when the former cut Broad aerially to point — where Collingwood took a memorable catch high to his right — and then Asad Shafiq hung out his bat and edged to the keeper for a first-ball duck.

Akmal was unfortunate to go lbw to a Luke Wright inswinger, having got a big inside edge on to his pad; then Swann's party piece of a wicket in his first over did for Fawad Alam, bowled pushing forward at a big off-break.

It was important for Yousuf and Umar Akmal not to panic. But a stand of 21 in eight overs took things to unhelpful extremes.

Swann repeated Broad's two-in-two feat, turning one sharply back through Yousuf's attempted drive to hit off stump and then Afridi edging on.

More than 23 overs elapsed without a Pakistan boundary, and the game and series was up as the tourists ended their impossibly irksome tour with barely a whimper of defiance.

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