Alastair Cook’s second hundred in successive one-day internationals once more underpinned victory as England went 2-0 up with two to play against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi.
Two days after his career-best 137, Cook (102) became the 10th England batsman – and first since Paul Collingwood five years ago – to make back-to-back ODI centuries.
The captain had to work a little harder in England’s 250-4 this time and his team did too, to get home by a mere 20 runs, compared to Monday’s 130-run win.
Cook belied his characteristically functional style by manufacturing some memorable shots among his 10 fours for a 118-ball hundred, in a match which bore obvious similarities to the first one of the series here.
Cook’s success at the toss, his man-of-the-match hundred, Ravi Bopara’s second consecutive 50 and identical figures for Steven Finn (4-34) were constants from the tourists’ first success.
But for variation it was Samit Patel, with the ball and in the field, who made perhaps the most telling interventions as six Pakistan batsmen made double figures but Misbah-ul-Haq top-scored with just 47.
Cook and Kevin Pietersen shared their second 50 opening stand in as many attempts together.
Early progress was nonetheless patchy, Cook playing out a maiden to Umar Gul’s first over of the match and needing 10 balls to get off the mark.
Shahid Afridi used up Pakistan’s DRS for an lbw against Pietersen which vindicated the umpire and spared the batsman, but Pietersen could add only three more runs before Saeed Ajmal hit him in front anyway in his first over.
Cook survived when Umar Akmal dropped a faint edge from an attempted cut at Afridi, but the wicketkeeper did manage to hold a routine catch to see off Jonathan Trott after a flat-footed waft at a wide ball from Aizaz Cheema.
Much therefore depended on Cook and Bopara again, and the Essex pair duly produced a stand of 78. Bopara would have been run out for one by a direct hit, taking an unlikely single to Imran Farhat at mid-on. But he went on to rotate the strike cleverly and push a run-a-ball tempo throughout.
The third-wicket pair’s accumulation peaked with 38 runs in the batting powerplay, only for Cook to go immediately afterwards when he poked a googly straight back to Afridi.
But Bopara kept his cool, despite managing only four boundaries – and Eoin Morgan weighed in with the first six of the series in a partnership of 56 inside the last 10 overs.
The total appeared marginally above par.
It was game on, though, after a cautious yet effective opening stand of 61 between Hafeez and Farhat which ended when the former fell to a tame clip to midwicket off James Anderson.
Stuart Broad was then alert to run out Farhat by throwing down the wickets in his follow-through as the batsman scampered back short of his crease.
Patel was responsible for the next two wickets, Younus Khan lbw pushing forward and Azhar Ali bowled off-stump as he shaped to cut a quicker ball which also turned a little.
Patel had a hand in the next too, a crucial one when he dived athletically to his left at cover to take a very good low catch off the returning Finn to see off the dangerous Akmal just as Pakistan were gathering momentum in the powerplay.
Misbah-ul-Haq had survived on 29 via a marginal umpire’s call lbw on DRS against Finn - and after Afridi survived a tough chance at long-off to a diving Broad and then hit 10 from two balls in Patel’s last over, English nerves were fluttering again.
A tight match remained that way right to the end. But a wicket maiden from Anderson, Afridi bowled heaving to leg, gave the tourists just enough breathing space as Finn then bowled Abdur Rehman and in the 48th over Misbah fell to a steepling, swirling mis-hit at Broad which was superbly caught by wicketkeeper Craig Kieswetter.
Afterwards, Cook put the focus of praise on Finn, who replicated his heroics from the opening match in Abu Dhabi two days earlier, to skittle out Pakistan short of the target.
“It was a slightly different wicket to the one two days ago,” said Cook. “It was slightly slower and a bit harder to time the ball. We thought around 250-260 would be a really hard total to chase down.
“After batting on it we knew when we bowled up front that was the easiest time to bat.
“I thought Steven Finn was outstanding. I think his first five overs only went for seven runs.
“We got ahead of the game then. I thought we also fielded outstandingly well. We saved a lot of runs. It was a really good team performance.”
Cook ignored any thoughts his side could yet gain a measure of revenge for the Test Series defeat by whitewashing Pakistan in the 50-over format.
“Let’s not worry about that yet,” he said. “Let’s concentrate on getting our performance right.”