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England v Pakistan 3rd ODI: Blue Brilliance for Bob

James Vince’s long-awaited first international century helped England chase down 331 to wrap up a 3-0 ODI series win against Pakistan on Tuesday evening.

It was fitting that on a day dedicated to the life of the great Bob Willis, the 19,000-plus fans inside Edgbaston were treated to a 50-over classic as Ben Stokes’ side chased down the highest total ever at the ground in an ODI.

When it comes to style and entertainment value you’d be hard pushed to find two better batters to watch than Vince and Babar Azam, and both hit brilliant hundreds in Birmingham as Stokesy’s side chased down 331 with just three wickets and 12 balls remaining.

This series has been anything but normal – given the circumstances that saw a whole new squad selected just days before the start – but after 18 months locked down, England’s win in front of a near-capacity Edgbaston crowd felt like an important moment on the road back to normality.

Stokesy was able to name an unchanged side for a third time this series and England made a familiar start as in-form Saqib Mahmood removed the dangerous Fakhar Zaman early on.

Imam-ul-Haq and Babar took Pakistan past 100 before Matt Parkinson struck with another ball of the century contender.

The Pakistan skipper, who would go on to make a majestic 158, continued to impress and alongside Mohammad Rizwan took his side near to 300 before Brydon Carse and Mahmood helped England wrestle back control.

The two pace bowlers combined in the closing stages to tear through the opposition batting lineup as the tourists lost six wickets for 37 runs and finished on 331/9.

Carse claimed his first five-wicket haul in international cricket in a fast bowling spell late in the innings that Willis himself would have been proud of.

Phil Salt gave England the fast start they needed by making 37 from 22 balls at the top of the order, while Zak Crawley chipped it with an elegant 39.

But it was Vince that proved key, hitting his maiden international century in his classic, breathtaking style.

His ability as a stroke player has never been up for debate but for a number of factors things just haven’t quite clicked for him in international cricket.

Today, however, he showed his class with a brilliant hundred and produced exactly when his side needed him – an achievement that didn’t go unappreciated in the Hollies Stand.

The stand-in skipper proved a useful partner for Vince and Lewis Gregory’s 77 was vital before Craig Overton and Carse finished the game off in the closing overs to cap a 3-0 series win.

Under the strangest of circumstances, these players have stepped up brilliantly and showed just how much depth England have in the white-ball game.