Pakistan may have chased down 300 plus in the final one-dayer of the series against England to prevent a series whitewash. But, they clearly were the second best team in the duel. Right through the series, England dominated with both bat and ball, never allowing the visitors too much of a chance to stay in the contest. They remained aggressive, in sync with what has been their newfound mantra since the 2015 World Cup debacle. Pakistan on the other hand never got into the groove, and were constantly searching for ways to survive. By the time they figured out a likely formula for victory, the series was done and dusted.
In a sense, the Nottingham ODI where England plundered a world record score of 444 signified the gulf between the teams. On one hand, there was Alex Hales, possibly playing for his place in the side, going hammer and tongs, and thus creating a record himself. On the other hand, Pakistan bowlers had a chance to put Hales under the pump. But, instead ended up giving him two lives, which enabled him to turn the corner in his batting. Wahab Riaz, who ended up conceding 110 runs will possibly be scarred for life, although he is someone who is known for his fighting attitude. Pakistan would be desperately hoping that the left-arm pacer can recover quickly.
Hales flourished in only one match, but Joe Root was yet again in top form. He kept getting runs almost everytime he visited the crease, and his busy knocks constantly kept Pakistan on their hooks. Of course, he would be disappointed at having missed out on a couple of hundreds. But, as long as he keeps scoring big enough England would not be a worried lot. The hosts' batting was all brute as everyone from skipper Eoin Morgan to Jos Buttler made significant contributions. Towards the end, Ben Stokes chipped in with a crucial knock. Also, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali contributed when needed, making it a solid all-round show.
England outdid Pakistan in the bowling as well. Mark Wood made an impressive comeback from injury, constantly picking up pace, and troubling the Pakistan batsmen. Chris Woakes may not have the pace, but he definitely possesses the control, and continued from where he left off in the Tests. Liam Plunkett provided the x-factor for England, and the three-pronged pace battery ensured Stokes wasn't missed much with the ball. Among the spinners, Adil Rashid and Moeen did not make much of an impression at the start. But, there were a couple of games towards the end in which they succeeded in troubling the opposition.
Pakistan will look back at the series with plenty of disappointment. Primarily because it wasn't as if they didn't have players, but because they couldn't perform to potential. Sarfraz Ahmed was the only one who came out with his reputation enhanced. And, that sad part about that is, it is the only aspect of Pakistan's cricket that has been consistent of late. Skipper Azhar Ali too got a couple of 80s to strike form back. But, Mohammad Hafeez had a terrible time before getting injured, and by the time Shoaib Malik got his first big score of the series, it was only of academic use. In the bowling Mohammad Amir could not make much of an impact while Umar Gul was surprisingly under-utilised.
--By A Cricket Analyst