SOUTHAMPTON: Pakistan captain Azhar Ali led from the front with 82 before England fought back to hold the tourists to 260 for six in the first one-day international at Southampton on Wednesday.
In a rain-interrupted innings, Sarfraz Ahmed (55) was the only other batsman to make a fifty and Pakistan’s plight in this day/night clash would have been worse had Azhar not twice been dropped on nine.
Azhar won the toss in the first of this five-match series and elected to bat in what was then bright sunshine.
Sharjeel Khan, carrying on from his blistering 152 in last week’s 255-run win over Ireland, struck three fours in 15 balls.
But the left-handed opener fell for 16 when he top-edged a pull off fast bowler Mark Wood and was caught behind by Jos Buttler.
England, whose fielding had proved fallible during a recent 2-2 drawn Test series against Pakistan, then twice dropped Azhar.
He was put down in the gully by Alex Hales off Wood, playing his first match for England since a Test against Pakistan in Dubai in October following persistent ankle problems.
Azhar was still on nine when he glanced fast bowler Liam Plunkett and a diving Buttler dropped the difficult left-handed chance.
England captain Eoin Morgan decided to bring part-time spinner Joe Root on ahead of specialist slow bowlers Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid.
He was rewarded when Mohammad Hafeez (11) swept a Root off-break straight to Hales at deep backward square leg.
Azhar and Babar Aslam (40) rebuilt the innings with a third-wicket stand of 61.
But Babar, who faced just 42 balls, was unlucky when given out lbw to leg-spinner Rashid by Australian umpire Simon Fry, even though replays clearly showed an inside edge.
However, as Sharjeel had wasted Pakistan’s lone review of the innings, Babar had to go and Pakistan were now 113 for three off 24 overs.
Azhar pressed on to a relatively sedate 84-ball fifty, including four fours.
He then upped the tempo by sweeping Rashid to the boundary. Azhar and Ahmed shared a fifty partnership in 56 balls before the skipper clouted Plunkett through mid-off for a well-struck boundary.
Ahmed took up the charge, advancing down the pitch to drive Wood. The wicket-keeper went on to make a 52-ball fifty.
Pakistan were 173 for for three off 35 overs and on course for a big total. But soon afterwards Azhar top-edged a slog-sweep off Rashid to Moeen Ali at short third man to end a 110-ball innings featuring nine fours.
The tourists’ progress was checked again by a brief rain break which stopped play with Pakistan 218 for four off 42.1 overs.
After the resumption both Shoaib Malik and Ahmed were caught driving to mid-off as they tried to force the pace. –AFP
England: Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (capt), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett, and Mark Wood.
Pakistan: Sharjeel Khan, Azhar Ali (capt), Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Sarfraz Ahmed (wk), Mohammad Nawaz, Imad Wasim, Wahab Riaz, Umar Gul, and Mohammad Amir.