England sweep Pakistan despite Babar Azam’s heroics

 England sweep Pakistan despite Babar Azam’s heroics
BIRMINGHAM - Pakistan captain Babar Azam returned to form with a record-breaking 158 yet once again found himself on the losing side as England completed a 3-0 one-day international series clean sweep at Edgbaston on Tuesday night. 

His highest score at this level saw Azam become the quickest player to 14 hundreds in men´s ODIs as the 26-year-old reached the landmark in 81 innings -- three fewer than South Africa´s Hashim Amla. Together with Mohammad Rizwan he shared a stand of 179, a Pakistan partnership record against England in an ODI. Yet despite a total of 331-9, Pakistan still suffered a three-wicket defeat after England´s James Vince posted his maiden international hundred.

Azam, top of the ODI batting rankings, was back in the runs after a score of nought and 19 in the first two games but that did not take the edge of this reverse. “We started well but were sloppy in the field,” he said. “We will learn from our mistakes.” While Azam is no stranger to international hundreds, it took Vince six years to register his first on the world stage.

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The 30-year-old Hampshire captain at last reached three figures in a 50th innings for his country across all three formats with a knock of 102. Yet, together with the rest of a brandnew squad, Vince was only called up by England days before the series opener after all those originally selected had to self-isolate following a coronavirus outbreak within the 50-over world champions´ camp.

“I hadn´t given up on this moment but this time last week I didn´t expect it at all,” said Vince, who made his England debut in May 2015. “I wasn´t sure it was going to come. I´ve played a number of games and not got there for England, but to score a hundred for my country was one of my dreams growing up. I´ll never forget that.”

England are expected to recall several first-choice players when they name their squad for an upcoming Twenty20 series against Pakistan on Wednesday. Several of their Test batsmen, however, struggled in a recent 1-0 series loss to New Zealand. But Vince´s modest Test average of 24.90 reflects how the talented shotmaker has often got himself out playing loose strokes.

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“I´m not going to start thinking I should be on the plane to the Ashes or in all the squads from now on,” he said. “I know the opinion on my career is that I´ve got starts but not made big contributions: the opinion is like that because that´s been the case. “But hopefully this will give me more confidence and some other people as well. Today can help me going forward.”

SCORES IN BRIEF

ENGLAND 332 for 7 (Vince 102, Gregory 77, Rauf 4-65) beat PAKISTAN 331 for 9 (Azam 158, Rizwan 74, Imam-ul-Haq 56, Carse 5-61) by 3 wickets. 

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