England’s makeshift one-day international team put the COVID-19 issues that hit the previous squad behind them to bowl out Pakistan for 141 runs before cruising to a clinical nine-wicket win in the series opener in Cardiff on Thursday.
Stand-in skipper Ben Stokes led an entirely fresh England XI, including five debutants, after a COVID-19 outbreak in the squad during the recent series win over Sri Lanka meant all 16 players initially selected had to self-isolate.
But the revamped hosts were on the front foot from the start, with paceman Saqib Mahmood marking his return to the side with four wickets for 42 to help bowl out Pakistan with just under 15 overs to spare.
Chasing 142 for a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, England lost Phil Salt in the fifth over before fellow opener Dawid Malan and Zak Crawley steadied the ship.
Malan (68 not out) brought up his second fifty in his fourth ODI appearance and Crawley (58 not out) also scored a half-century on his ODI debut as England cruised home in 21.5 overs.
“It was a very clinical performance,” said Stokes after leading the team to victory despite them having spent only one training session together on the eve of the match.
“Any time you get the opposition four down early on then you’re massively ahead in the game so that helps — especially when you’re captain for the first time.
“Not every game of cricket goes that smoothly for us.”
England made a rousing start with the ball in hand on a sunny afternoon as Mahmood trapped Pakistan opener Imam-ul-Haq leg-before with the first delivery of the match.
Two balls later, Mahmood picked up his second wicket when Pakistan skipper Babar Azam — the top-ranked ODI batsman — departed for a duck after edging to Crawley at second slip.
Mohammad Rizwan was next to be dismissed for 13 before Mahmood trapped Saud Shakeel in front of the stumps to leave Pakistan teetering at 26-4.
Opener Fakhar Zaman, who was making a return to the ground where he made a fifty in Pakistan’s 2017 Champions Trophy semi-final win over England, offered stiff resistance with Sohaib Maqsood as they added 53 runs for the fifth wicket.
The partnership, however, ended with a farcical run out when Fakhar called Maqsood for a single and then left him stranded as James Vince flicked the bails.
Pakistan’s hopes of posting a competitive total ended with Zaman (47) miscuing a square-cut straight to point off leg-spinner Matt Parkinson.
“To be honest we were a bit loose with the bat, and that’s why we didn’t get a big total,” Azam said.
“I don’t think we misread the conditions, but credit to their bowlers. The momentum they got, and the fact we couldn’t get a big partnership, is why we didn’t get a big total.”
The teams now head to the Lord’s for the second ODI on Saturday.