SOUTHAMPTON – Jos Buttler’s stunning 50-ball century just about proved the difference as England beat Pakistan by 12 runs in a thrilling second one-day international at Southampton on Saturday.
New father Buttler’s 110 not out was the cornerstone of World Cup hosts England’s 373 for three.
But Pakistan, thanks mainly to opener Fakhar Zaman’s 138, stayed in the game before a target of 19 off the last over, bowled by Chris Woakes, proved beyond them as they finished on 361 for seven.
Following Wednesday’s no-result washout at The Oval, victory left England 1-0 up in this five-match series.
Man-of-the-match Buttler’s innings featured nine sixes, including a straight drive off Hasan Ali that took him to three figures.
Together with England captain Eoin Morgan, who won the toss, Buttler shared an unbroken stand of 162.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) May 11, 2019
But Pakistan, chasing a national record 374 for victory, saw Fakhar and Babar Azam (51) put on 135 for the second wicket.
But when both batsmen fell in successive overs, it seemed Pakistan’s chance of an improbable had gone with them.
Asif Ali, however, ensured Pakistan stayed in the game with 51 before he was caught in the deep off David Willey, who held his nerve well late on to finish with two wickets for 57 runs in 10 overs.
Earlier, such was Buttler’s command that his second fifty took him a mere 18 balls, with the wicket-keeper making a ‘rocking the baby’ gesture – after the birth of his daughter two weeks ago – to celebrate bringing up a century that also included four fours.
An extraordinary inside-out six off Hasan over long-off was arguably the pick of his shots, although a pull off Shaheen Shah Afridi that cleared the rope and took him into the 90s was almost as impressive.
This was the 35th time since their miserable first-round exit at the 2015 World Cup that England had posted a total in excess of 300 – a feat they had achieved only 34 times in total prior to that tournament – an encouraging sign for Morgan’s men just weeks away from this year’s edition.
A Pakistan attack missing the ill Mohammad Amir took a pounding, with Hasan conceding 81 runs from his maximum 10 overs and Afridi 80.
Yet at one stage England’s decision to rest fast bowler Jofra Archer look like it might count against them.
Fakhar, the century-making hero of Pakistan’s 2017 Champions Trophy final win over India at The Oval, was soon driving the recalled Woakes for six and later twice struck the fast-medium bowler for cheeky scooped fours.
He also swept and drove Adil Rashid for two fours in the leg-spinner’s first over.
But the wicket England needed came when Fakhar chased a wide delivery from Woakes and edged to Buttler, although it needed Morgan’s review to confirm the dismissal. In total, Fakhar faced 106 balls including 12 fours and four sixes.
Pakistan suffered another setback when 227 for two in the 33rd over became 233 for three in the 34th after Babar was caught and bowled by Rashid.
The series continues at Bristol on Tuesday.