By By Kalika Mehta, Sky Sports News
England fell to a tight 14-run defeat to Pakistan in a tense World Cup encounter at Trent Bridge, despite centuries from Joe Root and Jos Buttler.
Requiring the highest-ever chase in a World Cup of 349 for victory, Root (107) and Buttler (103) shared an important 130-run fifth-wicket partnership but the pair both fell soon after reaching three figures as Pakistan’s frontline seamers Wahab Riaz and Mohammad Amir produced a fine spell of death bowling to strangle the middle and lower order.
It ended a run of 11 consecutive losses for Sarfaraz Ahmed’s team sandwiched between a washout at The Oval during the bi-lateral series against Eoin Morgan’s side in May – which England had won 4-0.
A vastly improved batting effort from Pakistan, who had been bowled out for just 105 in their first game of the tournament on Friday, which included half-centuries from Babar Azam (63) Mohammad Hafeez (84) and Ahmed (55) helped them to a more than competitive 348-8.
Root makes most of second life
Facing a daunting record chase in a World Cup, England were already teetering when Root came the crease after the early loss of Roy (8) and Root could well have been following his teammate back to the pavilion within the first six overs as he edged Amir to first slip.
Babar’s drop proved to be costly in a match littered with errors, as England’s Test captain compiled the first century of this summer’s tournament.
With his usual poise and elegance Root’s innings was crafted under huge pressure after the hosts had slipped to 118-4, bring up his three figures off only 97 balls – smacking nine fours and a six in the process.
The crucial 130-run stand with Buttler turned the game in England’s favour but just as he threatened to take the match away from Pakistan, Root was late on a quicker delivery from Shadab Khan (2-63) and spooned the ball straight to third man.
As tensions rose, Buttler continued to attack and struck the fastest World Cup hundred for an England player from just 75 balls but he too immediately gave away his wicket – slapping Amir to short third man.
And, Wahab re-entered the fray to remove Moeen Ali (19) and Chris Woakes (21) off consecutive deliveries in the 48th over as a chaotic finish veered away from England’s grasp.
Sloppy fielding almost costs England
Morgan opted to bowl first after bringing the fiery Mark Wood into the attack, in place of Liam Plunkett, having seen Sarfaraz Ahmed’s side bounced out for just 105 against the West Indies at the same venue – but not the same surface – during their first World Cup match.
However, opening pair Imam (44) and Fakhar (36) negotiated the opening phase of short balls and testing conditions well, and it was spinner Moeen that found England’s much needed breakthroughs, with a fine piece of the work behind the stumps from Buttler seeing latter stumped before Woakes took a brilliant diving catch to remove the former.
Pakistan though were allowed to rebuild with relative ease as some sloppy fielding – including Jason Roy putting down a simple catch at mid-off to give Hafeez a second life – allowed the visitors’ third-wicket pair of Hafeez and Babar Azam to share an 88 run partnership.
Moeen eventually had Babar caught by Woakes at long-on but Sarfaraz and Hafeez put on 80 runs in just 10 overs and the Pakistan captain was allowed to bring up his half-century off 40 balls when Root’s shy at the stumps ran away for four buzzers.
In the end, the 31 runs England conceded off the final three overs in the first innings condemned them to their first loss of tournament.