Eoin Morgan regards England’s six-wicket victory at the Sharjah Cricket Stadium today as the “biggest step forward” so far in their one-day international series against Pakistan.
England have established an unbeatable 2-1 series advantage, with just one more match still to play.
But it was the manner of their success which had England’s Irish captain purring with praise.
It came thanks to a fine all-round display in the field but especially the unbroken partnership of 117 between James Taylor, who made an unbeaten 67, and back-to-form Jos Buttler.
England stumbled to 93-3 in pursuit of 208 as the Pakistan spinners began to find sharp turn, and that made starting an innings with more than 100 runs still needed a tough task for a batsman.
But Taylor and Buttler responded wonderfully well, England’s wicketkeeper-batsman finding the range which has deserted him for much of the past five months and finishing not out on 49 after hitting an emphatic six over midwicket off Iftikhar Ahmed for victory with nine overs to spare.
Morgan said: “The chase was exceptional. The manner in which they played was probably the biggest step we’ve had forward on this tour so far.
“In previous tours, when you’re presented with a challenge, you sometimes fall short to start with – and then need to make a mistake in order to learn.”
The mistakes in this match were almost all instead Pakistan’s, notably in a mid-innings collapse of six wickets for 29 runs which prevented them setting a more taxing target.
The circumstances of some of their hapless dismissals, including three run-outs, brought a quizzical response from some on social media.
Morgan was not minded to enter afterwards into a discussion about whether another collapse should give rise to old suspicions.
“I think that’s a very sensitive issue, and something I’m not going to get involved in,” he said.
Pakistan captain Azhar Ali, meanwhile, voiced his regret that – for the second match running – the hosts’ batting had let them down.
“In 10 overs, we lost six wickets for 30 runs,” he said. “That was the period when the whole thing went bad.
“We had a very good start, and Wahab (Riaz) finished off very well. But in between, every two overs there was a wicket.”
There were some ‘schoolboy’ errors, and Azhar added: “I just think it was bad running between the wickets, plus some bad shot selection.
“It wasn’t pleasing to see, three run-outs in the space of 10 to 15 overs. It doesn’t look good.”
For Morgan, by contrast, there was only satisfaction at a job done so well – particularly by England’s fifth-wicket pair.
“It can all of a sudden start turning square,” he said. “But from ball one, the two guys were brilliant.
“What I find hard to explain to guys who weren’t out there at the time is (how important it was) that they went out there and played their shots – in such a way that you don’t let somebody bowl in the same position twice.”
If Taylor and Buttler’s batting was the main focus, there were no weak links for England.
Chris Woakes, with 4-40, took most advantage of Pakistan’s foibles, as in Abu Dhabi six days previously.
Morgan added: “I thought we were outstanding in all facets. The attitude we showed to dig in and show resilience is one of the things I’m really proud of.
“Considering we’re a young side lacking a bit of experience, it says a great deal about the progress we are making at the moment.
“The actual learning curve we’re going through is very significant.”