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December 13, 2005 2:00 am
A sluggish, sleep-deprived England were blown away by the pace of the world's fastest bowler, Shoaib Akhtar, as Pakistan coasted to victory in the second one-day international by seven wickets, writes David Smith in Lahore. The five-match series now stands at 1-1.
Shoaib, known as "The Rawalpindi Express", produced a masterclass of fast bowling on the sub-continent to take 5-54 in 8.4 overs, and reduce England to a modest 230 all out in 48.4 overs. Pakistan chased down the score with six overs to spare, led by the flashing blade of wicketkeeper-batsman Kamran Akmal, 23, who made his second one-day century.
Facing Shoaib's thunderbolts is hard at the best of times, but England had stayed up half the night to accept the BBC Sports Personality of the Year team award and fatigue may well have played a part. Stand-in captain Marcus Trescothick said: "It wasn't ideal preparation for a big one-day game. But we are professional enough to know what to do, like going to bed earlier. There are other reasons why we lost."
What was not in doubt was the near-irresistible force of Shoaib. His first victim was Trescothick who lost his off stump to an exquisitely disguised slower ball. Fourballs later and AndrewStrauss departed for a duck, instinctively fending off a 93mph bouncer, to leave England 30-2.
Enter Kevin Pietersen, a preening, precocious showman to rival even Shoaib. But a hairline fracture of a rib hampered his movement and he slogged loosely as though aware his presence would be fleeting. His third, fourth, fifth and sixth balls disappeared to the boundary in a blur of bat speed, but thereafter multiple swipes ended inevitably in a fatal charge down the pitch. When England's other big gun, BBC Sports Personality of the Year Andrew Flintoff, fell for a duck, the tourists were 74-4.
Abdul Razzaq then dismissed Matt Prior as a prelude to Shoaib producing an even more hostile second spell. A hapless Geraint Jones fell to another rearing bouncer and Ian Blackwell was beaten for pace by a ball that moved off the seam to hit off stump.
England were on the brink of a miserable score at 130-8 but there followed a record ninth-wicket stand of 100 between Liam Plunkett, who made a sensible 56 in his second ODI, and Vikram Solanki, who made a silky 39 not out. Inevitably, Shoaib came back to end the stand.
England needed Flintoff and Steve Harmison to extract awkward bounce like Shoaib, but they lacked his mastery of conditions. Akmal played some fabulous shots, the pick of them a punched uppercut over the deep-point boundary off Harmison.
England were outgunned and the bad news for them is that Shahid Afridi returns to strengthen Pakistan's side for the third ODI in Karachi on Thursday, while the injured Pietersen's presence is in doubt.
Meanwhile, coach Duncan Fletcher admitted the ''ideal" England management team he had assembled was losing a pivotal member following the decision of fast-bowling coach Troy Cooley to return to Australia. Cooley will take up a similar post with Cricket Australia when his contract with the England and Wales Cricket Board ends in May.
After joining England in 2003, Cooley has been hailed as the man who developed the talents of pacemen Steve Harmison, Andrew Flintoff, Simon Jones and Matthew Hoggard - all of whom played key roles in winning the Ashes last summer. When England play Australia again next year, Cooley will be plotting to reverse matters.
*European football champions Liverpool will face Deportivo Saprissa in the semi-final of the Club World Championship on Thursday. The Costa Rica team, who are champions of Fifa's CONCACAF confederation, beat Sydney FC 1-0 in Toyota, central Japan.
Saprissa, known in Costa Rica as the "Purple Monsters", will play Liverpool in Yokohama while Sydney take on Egypt's Al Ahly in the tournament's fifth-place play-off.
Former Manchester United striker Dwight Yorke was Sydney's most dangerous player.
Meanwhile, Swansea defender Ijah Anderson has tested positive for cocaine. The 29-year-
old has been suspended by the League One leaders pending a hearing at the Football Association of Wales. If found guilty, Swansea chairman Huw Jenkins confirmed the player would be sacked.
*England football fans are set to receive more tickets if their World Cup opponents fail to sell their full allocation.
The Football Association will receive 8 per cent of the tickets available for their Group B matches in Germany against Paraguay, Trinidad and Tobago and Sweden. While Sweden are expected to sell their tickets, England's other two opponents are likely to return some of their allocation, with the FA having first option.
Any extras the FA receive will be sold to their official supporters' group while non-members now have the chance to enter a ballot for remaining tickets on the official Fifa website.
*Baracouda will miss the Long Walk Hurdle at Windsor on Saturday after an administrative error at François Doumen's yard ruled the French horse out of this weekend's showpiece race. The 10-year-old has taken the Grade One race on four occasions, and beat Crystal D'Ainay by three-quarters of a length 12 months ago to add to his wins in 2000, 2001 and 2003.
Owner JP McManus's racing manager Frank Berry said: ''Everything is fine, it was just a clerical error and he wasn't confirmed.
''I wouldn't have any idea at this stage where he will go instead."
His arch rival in the stayers' division, Inglis Drever, heads the nine remaining at the five-day stage, with trainer Howard Johnson also confirming the fancied No Refuge.
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