Ruthless Pakistan overwhelm shell-shocked England
CARDIFF, Reuters: Pakistan delivered an inspired all-round performance to rout a ragged England team by eight wickets in a one-sided Champions Trophy semifinal on Wednesday.
Pakistan bowled and fielded tightly to restrict the hosts to a paltry total of 211 all out and the lowest-ranked team in the tournament knocked off the runs in style with a massive 12.5 overs to spare.
It was a major disappointment for England, who won all three group matches in their bid to claim a first global 50-over title and had beaten Pakistan in 12 of their last 14 one-day internationals.
They collapsed, however, on a sluggish pitch from 128 for two in sunny conditions which normally favour batsmen and the bowlers failed to repair the damage as Fakhar Zaman and Azhar Ali shared a stand of 118 to lead Pakistan to their target.
Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed won the toss and England openers Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow, replacing the out-of-form Jason Roy, made a solid enough start.
Hitting boundaries proved difficult, however, and a clearly frustrated Hales, on 13, spooned Rumman Raees to cover with a loose drive.
Bairstow, dropped twice, accumulated 43 runs through good shot placement and quick running between the wickets before he pulled seamer Hasan Ali to Mohammad Hafeez at deep square leg.
Joe Root and Eoin Morgan continued to score at about five runs an over but Root, on 46, nicked leg-spinner Shadab Khan to wicketkeeper Sarfraz and Morgan (33) aimed an expansive drive at the lively Hasan and gave Sarfraz another catch to leave England in trouble at 141 for four.
Jos Buttler (4), Moeen Ali (11) and Adil Rashid (7) fell quickly and Ben Stokes, one of the most destructive batsmen in the world, failed to hit a boundary in a scratchy 34 as the Pakistan bowlers dominated.
Fakhar hit Mark Wood for the first six of the match in the opening over of Pakistan's innings and he and Azhar played some delightful strokes in a fluent partnership.
Fakhar reached his 50 off 49 balls before being stumped by Buttler off Rashid for 57 but Azhar and Babar Azam calmly continued to milk runs all around the ground as England's bowlers ran out of ideas.
Azhar, on 76, dragged a delivery from Jake Ball on to his stumps before Babar (38 not out) and Hafeez (31 not out) guided Pakistan home.
India play Bangladesh in the second semi-final in Birmingham on Thursday.