England finally got the sort of match that their preparations for the ODI World Cup probably required in Sydney today, but sadly they did not get the result that was perhaps foremost on their minds, as they succumbed to a four-wicket defeat to Pakistan. Eoin Morgan will at least have been able to assess his troops' abilities a bit more clearly, after the one-sided affair against the West Indies, but will need to ensure that they learn the lessons from this close loss when the World Cup itself begins and cut out the loose shots that perhaps cost them the win.
England won the toss and elected to bat first. The side was freshened up by the introduction of Alex Hales and Gary Balance to the specialist batting positions, with both men having pleasing knocks but perhaps disappointingly not going on to post really big scores.
They were both out to loose shots when playing well and looking set for better things, as Hales made 31 before being caught off Shahid Afridi's bowling and Balance 57, but may have forced themselves into the reckoning for the opening World Cup match against Australia anyway. One man who seems certain to feature against the Aussies is Yorkshireman Joe Root, who proceeded to smash a fine 85 from 89 deliveries. He too would have been disappointed to fall before the close, when dismissed in the 49th over. Chris Jordan's 31 gave the tourists some late firepower down the order. England's total was a distinctly 'gettable' 250-8 from their full allotment, although Morgan will at least have been pleased that his side saw their 50 overs out, after previous matches have seen then waste run scoring deliveries by early collapses. Spinner Yasir Shah picked up 3 wickets as the pick of the bowlers.
Pakistan were always within touching distance of their target, as competitive knocks by Misbah-ul-Haq with an undefeated 91 and Umar Akmal with 65 gave the lower order something to battle for. Indeed, after sliding to 2-1 and then 10-2, Pakistan were indebted to the fifth-wicket partnership that put on 133 to give them a chance at the death.
That old warhorse Afridi was the man to see them home, as he has done so well for them in the past, with just seven balls remaining at 252-6.
England shared the wickets around as they had a look at seven bowlers during the innings, perhaps with at least one eye on future matches to come. Both Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad picked up two wickets apiece, as England sought but ultimately failed in their attempt to find a winning permutation.
Morgan will hope that the recent see-saw run of results continues against the formidable Aussies, many people's favourites for the World Cup on home soil, as England should be due a victory on that basis. He will hope that the portents are good. #Celebrities #Cricket