NOTTINGHAM    -   Babar Azam compiled a classy century to help set England a target of 341 for victory in the fourth ODI at Trent Bridge.

Tom Curran claimed four wickets to be the pick of the England bowlers and help contain Pakistan to a total the hosts would regard as comfortably attainable, given their recent form and the ground’s reputation for producing big scores. Curran looked gutted not to have taken five wickets but his 4 for 75 off 10 overs were crucial as Pakistan finished on 340 for 7.

Mark Wood made an encouraging return to international cricket, showing the pace and wicket-taking ability that heralded his initial comeback in the Caribbean.

Playing his first match since early March, when he took 3 for 9 in a T20 win over West Indies to cap a hugely successful tour following an ankle injury, Wood hit 91.6mph in his first over against Pakistan and ended with 2 for 71 off his 10 overs. Jofra Archer also bowled with genuine pace to claim the other wicket.

Pakistan overcame the loss of in-form opener Imam-ul-Haq, who retired hurt on just 3 when he was struck flush on the left elbow attempting to pull a Wood delivery in the fouth over. X-rays revealed no fracture but he remained in the changing-room with his arm packed in ice until late in the innings.

Fakhar Zaman and Babar steered Pakistan to 116 before the first wicket fell, thanks to some good pressure from Curran. Looking to smack the ball over cover, Fakhar sent the ball to third man, where Wood claimed a good catch diving forwards. Joe Denly continued his audition as a back-up spinner for the World Cup, brought on early by Jos Buttler, who was standing in as captain while Eoin Morgan serves a one-match suspension for England’s slow over rate in the previous match. Denly conceded eight off his first over, the ninth of the innings, and finished an unremarkable five overs with none for 27.

Babar and Mohammad Hafeez teamed up for the second century stand of Pakistan’s innings, Hafeez cracking a boundary off Wood to bring up his half-century before Wood’s response was to have him caught simply at mid-on by substitute fielder Chris Jordan for 59.

Babar brought up his ninth century from 63 ODI innings with a sweetly struck four off Curran. He reached 115 in steady fashion, off 113 balls, but he was out slicing Curran over cover as Archer ran in to take a fine catch.

Archer demonstrated the kind of reflex thinking and athletic ability that makes him such an asset in the field when he almost ran out Asif Ali with some fancy footwork. As Shoaib Malik deflected an Archer delivery into the off side, hesitated, then set off, Archer - in his follow-through - toe-poked the ball directly onto the stumps at the striker’s end, where Asif stretched to make his ground safely.

Asif did not last much longer, hooking Archer wildly towards fine leg, where Wood took a nerveless catch diving forward.

Malik kept the score ticking along, reaching 41 off just 25 balls, but with Pakistan needing to let loose in the final overs with five wickets in hand, Wood tricked him with a slower ball to which Malik went too deep in his crease and clattered his own stumps.

While Pakistan maintained a healthy run rate, the feeling throughout was that they would need to lift it, given their opposition and the surface. When Imam returned with seven wickets down and only 16 balls remaining, he looked in some discomfort still and it begged the question whether it might have been wise to put in a batsman who could swing with more freedom, especially when he added just three more runs to his score.

 

Scorecard

PAKISTAN:

Imam-ul-Haq not out 6

Fakhar Zaman c Wood b Curran 57

Babar Azam c Archer b Curran 115

M Hafeez c sub b Wood 59

Shoaib Malik hit wicket b Wood 41

Asif Ali c Wood b Archer 17

Imad Wasim b Curran 12

Sarfaraz Ahmed not out 21

Hasan Ali c Denly b Curran 1

EXTRAS: (lb 4, w 7) 11

TOTAL: (7 wkts, 50 overs) 340

FOW: 1-116, 2-220, 3-249, 4-280, 5-298, 6-316, 7-319.

BOWLING: JC Archer 10-0-62-1, MA Wood 10-0-71-2, JL Denly 5-0-27-0, TK Curran 10-0-75-4, AU Rashid 7-0-49-0, BA Stokes 4-0-22-0, MM Ali 4-0-30-0.

TOSS: England

UMPIRES: Chris Gaffaney, Alex Wharf

TV UMPIRES: Paul Reiffel

RESERVE UMPIRE: Rob Bailey

MATCH REFEREE: Sir Richie Richardson