England Open Series With Ageas Bowl Victory

England secured a 44-run win in their rain-affected Royal London ODI against Pakistan

England kicked off their Royal London One Day International series against Pakistan with a 44-run victory in their rain-affected encounter in front of a capacity crowd at the Ageas Bowl.

Jason Roy's Man of the Match performance helped England score 194-3 after 34 overs of dominance with the bat, comfortably on course to chase down Pakistan's 261-run target when showers halted Eoin Morgan's 35-run partnership with Ben Stokes.

Adil Rashid (2-51) was the pick of an effective England bowling attack, despite Azhar Ali's assured knock of 82, before fifties from Roy and Root put the home side in control, needing 58 runs off 82 balls when the players left the field for the last time. 

After Pakistan won the toss and elected to bat first, Mark Wood and Joe Root took a wicket each to help England reduce Pakistan to 52-2 in after 13th over, making a strong start with the ball, but removing the visiting captain would prove difficult.

Azhar Ali, the visiting skipper, forged fifty partnerships with Babar Azam and Sarfraz Ahmed as Pakistan responded to England’s early bowling pressure with a resolute, measured batting display.

Ali reached his half-ton off 84 balls, pushing just four to the boundary, and then began to bat with more freedom after surpassing the milestone, going on to score 82 before Rashid struck.

Having smartly trapped Azam at lbw in the 24th over, the Yorkshire spinner crucially dismissed Ali, whose looping top edge found the hands of his namesake, Moeen Ali. Pakistan's top-scorer received a warm ovation from a sell-out Ageas Bowl crowd as he left the field, having hit nine boundaries and faced 110 balls for a classy 82.

Sarfraz Ahmed (53) scored a furious fifty off just 52 balls to drive Pakistan beyond 200, as the visitors looked to take control with the bat, but two wickets in quick succession boosted England going into the final five overs.

England Pacemen Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes benefited from poorly timed strokes to mid-off, Shaoib Malik caught by Ali before Wood pocketed to end Sarfraz’ eye-catching innings.

Pakistan set England a 261-run target, after Mohammad Nawaz and Imad Wasim made exciting introductions, both finishing unbeaten on 17 to leave the game finely in the balance after 50 overs.

England openers Roy and Alex Hales have shown before that they are capable of chasing down competitive scores with effortless ease, but the home side were dealt a setback in the fourth over when Hales edged Umar Gul to Mohammad Hafeez at first slip.

Roy was almost caught two overs later on 24, and Pakistan seamer Mohammad Amir couldn’t believe his eyes as a high, looping miscue from the Surrey batsman failed to nestle into the hands of experienced keeper Sarfraz.

Joe Root scored at a run a ball as he joined Roy, whose attacking style took England past fifty after just eight overs, at which point Pakistan had notched 30 in their innings.

Sarfraz was left regretting his dropped catch when Man of the Match Roy held his bat aloft in the 15th over, celebrating a half-ton crafted off just 42 balls, and a fifty partnership extended to 73 as the home side brought up 100 runs.

Pakistan could breathe a sigh of relief when Roy was eventually caught, as Nawaz remained calm and balanced to dismiss England’s dangerman inches from the boundary at long-off.

Root continued to cause damage as he went on to make fifty himself, off 56 balls, matching the power Roy had exhibited so potently with equally impressive precision, timing and flamboyance as England raced beyond 150.

Even after Root was run out by Azhar Ali, Pakistan’s chances of kicking the series off with a win seemed limited with England needing 99 runs off the last 21 overs, with England captain Eoin Morgan joined by another big-hitter in Ben Stokes.

Rain arrived in the 34th over, as Morgan’s 35-run partnership with Stokes was interrupted for half an hour, causing two overs to be lost and England’s total to be revised to 252 runs. 

The players returned to action for three balls, but the umpires and groundstaff were forced to abandon the match as persistent rain fell at the Ageas Bowl, confirming England's victory by 44 runs and a 1-0 series lead over Pakistan.