England continued their unbeaten start to the summer in white-ball cricket as Ben Stokes’ side secured a dominant nine-wicket victory in the first game of the ODI series against Pakistan.

This series has been billed as a test of just how impressive our depth of talent in the shorter formats really is and on initial evidence, we’ve got a real embarrassment of riches.

A bowling attack lead by a phenomenal Saqib Mahmood (with a career-best for England of 4-42) restricted Pakistan to just 141, while half-centuries from Dawid Malan and Zak Crawley meant that figure was chased down with ease.

Following the events of the week, which saw a COVID-19 outbreak rule out of the whole of the initial squad and the ECB call up 18 new players, it was a given that there would be 11 changes for the first game in Cardiff.

Stokesy’s side included five debutants but after winning the toss and opting to bowl first it was Mahmood, playing his fifth ODI, that caused all the problems.

The Lancashire quick trapped Imam-ul-Haq LBW with the first ball of the match before having Babar Azam, the Pakistan captain and number one rated batsman in this format, caught two balls later.

With Pakistan 0/2, Stokesy had made a perfect start as stand-in skipper but his side did not loosen their grip on the game. In fact, they tightened it when a jaffa from Lewis Gregory had Mohammed Rizwan caught by Simpson – his first dismissal for the Three Lions!

A change in angle to around the wicket allowed Mahmood to nip one in onto the pads of Saud Shakeel to claim his third and leave 26/4 after seven overs.

The tourists weren’t going to lie down, though, and some spirited batting from Fakhar Zaman helped wrestle back some momentum.

The Pakistani opener began to build a partnership with Sohaib Maqsood but a mixup and some smart fielding from James Vince meant a run out saw them slip to 79/5.

Shadab Khan was the next player to join Zaman at the crease but their partnership would last just three overs as Matt Parkinson did for the latter, who was caught by Crawley for a team-high 47.

The final four wickets fell for 51 runs, with Mahmood, Parkinson, and Craig Overton in the wickets, to leave Pakistan all out for 141.

Phil Salt and Malan were the duo entrusted with beginning England’s chase but the former managed only seven before he was caught in the slip cordon to leave the hosts 22/1.

That brought Crawley to the crease at three and though they won’t have had long to prepare for him, Pakistan know what he is all about – given his mammoth Test double-century against them last summer.

It was almost as if he’d picked up where he’d left off in Southampton as he was positive from the off.

At the other end, Malan was in wonderful touch and simply had an answer for everything that Azam’s bowling attack could throw at him.

Between the two of them, there was some stunning strokeplay on display and they closed in on the target in no time – with first Malan and then Crawley reaching 50.

It was the debutant that hit the winning runs, giving Stokesy’s side victory with nine wickets and 169 balls remaining.

Next stop a full capacity Lord’s – a stage that will no doubt inspire a response from Pakistan – but full credit to Ben’s Babes after a dominant performance in the series opener!

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