Pakistan came into the 4th ODI having already lost the series and with nothing left to play for other than to possibly to minimise the upcoming dent in their ODI rankings. Pakistan were liberal with the changes Wahab, Amir, Malik and Yasir out. They were replaced by Irfan, Gul, Rizwan and Imad.
England had already won the series so they rested Wood and Woakes with a last minute injury also ruling out Ballance. In came Willey, Jordan and Bairstow.
Pakistan opted to bat first, Morgan said England would have done the same. Sami came out with Sharjeel, Azhar is still batting at 3 when his best position is to open. Sami's run of bad form continued, Sharjeel spun the roulette wheel again but today wasn't one of his lucky days. The way he bats, he probably wont have too many lucky days.
It was left to Azhar to steady the ship. He batted well and at a decent clip, despite regularly losing partners at the other end. Once he'd played himself in, he was quite aggressive but he went for one shot too many and ended up getting out just as Pakistan looked like they might post a competitive total.
The returning wunderkid Imad wasted no time in taking apart the English bowling attack. He posted his second fifty of the series, England still have not been able to take his wicket this series. Makes you wonder why he is batting as low as 8.
At one point Pakistan looked like they would have been lucky to get to 180 but thanks to Imad they got to 247. Given Pakistan's poor bowling form this series the only question left seemed to be how many overs England would need to chase this small total down.
35-40 overs seemed about right.
Then up stepped Irfan. He'd been left out of the original ODI squad despite being Pakistan's highest ranked ODI bowler. In fact he was the only Pakistani bowler in the top 40. This was Irfan's chance to show the selectors that they'd made a mistake and that he was someone who should play every game.
He started off a little unsteady, his first over not being great. Then the umpire kept getting in his ear, after every ball the umpire was talking to Irfan and to the captain Azhar about the 7 foot fast bowler ending up a little bit further down the pitch than the 6 foot bowlers did. Irfan managed to keep bowling well despite the constant barrage from the umpire. Eventually the umpire gave Irfan his 2nd warning and was no doubt ready to stop him bowling again in this match.
It was at that point that Irfan switched to bowling around the wicket. What had seemed like bad luck turned into an unintentional good move as Irfan went from bowling well to being unplayable. He really had Morgan dancing and was just hitting his stride when Azhar made the decision to take Irfan off. I was confused, the commentators were confused but off came Irfan. He'd had a good first spell taking 2 wickets in 5 overs for just 26 runs.
t was his first game back and I felt he needed 2 more overs. We later found out he had only bowled 4 overs in a T20 game since April so was not match fit. If team management knew about this information which I would hope they did because I found out from Google, then they should have either just bowled him out or had him bowl a longer initial spell.
In the post match interview Azhar revealed that he had been hoping for a second and third spell from Irfan. It's hard to blame Azhar as he hasn't had a bowler bowling like that all series so it's easy to see why he wanted to hold Irfan back for breakthroughs later in the game. But he should have factored in his lack of match practise.
Whilst he was fielding Irfan's calf cramped up so badly that he spent the rest of the game on and off the pitch. When he finally got a chance to bowl, he was unable to complete his runup and he had to go off for the rest of the game. Azhar ended up bowling most of the rest of Irfan's quota.
Without Irfan the rest of the attack looked pedestrian. The early wickets falling made the match seem a lot closer than it should have been. England ended up taking 48 overs to win the game so perhaps another 20 runs from Pakistan could have made the difference.
Sixties from Stokes and Bairstow as well as a 45 from Moeen saw England home by 4 wickets with 2 overs to spare. Irfan gave Pakistan some hope today but his lack of match fitness also took it away.
We can only wonder if this would have been a different series with Irfan part of the original squad. He would have had a chance to have a run out against Ireland and taken his time to get acclimatised. But as things stand he may not get to play again on this tour.
Irfan gives Pakistan hope, then takes it away
Irfan gives Pakistan hope, then takes it away