Pakistan’s tour of England went from bad to worse after losing by five wickets in the first of two Twenty20 internationals on Sunday as new fixing allegations were reported in the British media.
Led by Eoin Morgan’s 38 not out and Michael Yardy’s unbeaten 35, England reached 129-5 with 17 balls remaining after Pakistan had been restricted to 126-5 at Sophia Gardens.
The match had been in the balance until Pakistan made some fielding lapses. Umar Gul committed two errors, while Shoaib Akhtar dropped Morgan on 13 in a straightforward chance at short fine-leg and shortly after allowed a boundary.
The match at least turned the focus back to cricket after corruption allegations implicating Pakistan players had dominated the global media for the past eight days.
“After what has been going on for a week or 10 days, it’s been very difficult. But it’s my job and the coach’s job to lift the morale and keep the guys in high spirits,” Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi said. “At one time it looked like we were going to win this game. But the way Morgan and Yardy played, they did very well.
“We missed some opportunities, like catches and run outs at the right time. So next time I hope we will avail (ourselves of) these opportunities. In this kind of cricket, fielding is a main weapon if you want to win.”
With Mohammad Asif, Mohammad Amir and test captain Salman Butt all suspended by the ICC on corruption charges, after an undercover investigation into fixing by the News of the World newspaper last week, more revelations followed on Sunday. The tabloid also claimed that a fourth Pakistan player is being investigated by the ICC, but that he cannot be named for legal reasons.
Pakistan opening batsman Yasir Hameed, who was not selected for the limited-overs series, was secretly filmed by the newspaper as saying some of his teammates often “are trying to lose” for money. He later said he was only repeating rumors he had heard.
With this swirling in the background, Pakistan now had to take on the current Twenty20 world champions and initially made a good start when England slumped to 62-5 at the 10-over halfway stage.
But then came the fielding lapses, the worst of which was Akhtar’s howler in dropping Morgan. Afterward, Akhtar removed his cap and placed his hands over his face in shame.
Akhtar had earlier removed both England openers to take 2-23 in four overs, consistently bowling around 93 miles per hour in his first over, a maiden
Morgan wrapped up a comfortable win with a square cut for four off Gul. He struck six boundaries in 24 balls, while Yardy hit four fours in 26 deliveries.
Umar Akmal top-scored with 35 from 30 deliveries for Pakistan after the start of the match had been delayed for 30 minutes by rain.
England offspinner Graeme Swann bowled with skill for 2-14 from four overs to slow Pakistan’s scoring rate mid-innings and ensure a modest target was set.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” England captain Paul Collingwood said. “Our strategies seem to be working in the Twenty20 form of the game. It has been a tough week but the guys focused 100 percent on their cricket, and we enjoyed our win today.”
The second match is on Tuesday, also at Cardiff. A five-match, 50-over series will then follow.