England 337 for 9 (Stokes 84, Root 60, Bairstow 59, Rauf 3-64) beaten Pakistan 244 (Salman 51, Willey 3-56) by 93 runs

Soon-to-be deposed world champions England bid farewell to the 2023 World Cup with a glimpse of their former dominating self, as they marched to an emphatic 93-run victory over Pakistan at Eden Gardens. This result means that Babar Azam’s men are officially excluded from the semi-finals.

David Willey marked the final appearance of his international career with a scintillating all-round display that included his 100th and final ODI wicket, and after Ben Stokes backed a commanding total of 337 for 9 with his second consecutive strong outing, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid turned the screw on a spin-friendly surface to quell any pretense of a contest with four wickets between them.

England v Pakistan could have been one of the World Cup games, and surely would have been if either team had lived up to their pre-tournament expectations. Instead, both slipped out of the side gate among the also-rans, although England’s second successive victory confirmed them a seventh place in the group stage standings and a place in the Champions Trophy 2025 – the most Pyrrhic. consolation prizes.

As for Pakistan, their show of despondency started from the moment Jos Buttler called correctly during the toss. With New Zealand fourth ahead of them in terms of net run rate, their already slim chances of reaching the semi-finals hinged on a huge score on the board and beating England by 287 or more in response – which , Let’s be honest, it wasn’t entirely strange given England’s experience in the tournament so far.

However, being invited to bowl first was another matter. Once Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan had moved to 72 for 0 in the power play – England’s highest level of the tournament – ​​Pakistan were already expected to be able to reach that total in three overs, and that requirement only increased exponentially with each additional run. Their final target of 338 meant their challenge would be officially eliminated after 6.4 overs of their chase, at which point Willey had reduced them to 30 for 2 with his 98th and 99th ODI wickets.

From there, the only way was to go down to Pakistan. Babar Azam deceived Gus Atkinson at midwicket to end his campaign as he began against the Netherlands, while Mohammad Rizwan also provided an unintentional echo of past performances, as he galloped down the field until to Moeen and cramped up as the ball clung to Moeen. get him through his door – a comical reprise of his exploits against Sri Lanka earlier in the campaign.

Regardless of the subplots, this was undoubtedly England’s most complete performance at the World Cup. By the ninth over, they got their batting tempo on what quickly proved to be a lazy black ground surface, with a trio of half-centuries from Bairstow, Joe Root and Stokes interspersed with a series of cameos without hobbles – including an admittedly confusing 27 off 18 balls from Buttler – which suggested they had finally stopped worrying and had simply gone back to hitting the ball as hard and as often as possible.

Bairstow, to be fair, had not strayed from this formula throughout the tournament, but, after a disappointing total of 156 runs at 19.50 in his previous eight innings, he this time allowed himself time to gauge the pace of the pitch before signaling the charge with five fours and a six in the space of 16 balls after just one run from his first 11.

His 59 from 61 balls ended with a flat shot to cover Haris Rauf, by which stage Malan, England’s most consistent player in a disappointing field, had already fallen on the reverse sweep for 31. However, taking the England’s opening stand at 82 in the 14th over, the pair had at least spared Root from returning to the powerplay – a period of the game which, judging by his 11 dismissals in 19 innings since England’s victory 2019 apparently scared him.

Root’s incredibly poor tournament would end with his third half-century in nine innings and a total of 276 runs at 30.66 which masked the extent to which his game had disappeared in critical moments of the English campaign. Even so, his 60 from 72 balls was still far from the standards he aspires to – once again his timing for his scoop on the keeper was visibly poor – and until Mohammad Wasim gifted four consecutive balls to After giving a massage to his strike rate at the end of his stay, he had hit a solitary boundary in his first 38 balls.

Root, however, had some familiar and indomitable company to soften his tempo. For the second match in a row, Stokes produced the kind of performance that was expected of him on his return to ODI colours. His 84 from 76 balls provided the impetus for England’s telling third-wicket stand of 132, although it might have been a different story had Shaheen Shah Afridi latched on to a return catch after sucking Stokes with a well-disguised slower ball.

That moment could have sent Stokes on his way to 10 from 16 balls. Instead, it was the catalyst for an inevitable counter-attack, as Afridi’s next ball was sent straight over his head for four, followed by three more down the ground in his subsequent over.

However, the harder Stokes got, the more obvious it became that his problematic left knee was on its last legs. At one point, after a bludgeon across the line from Wasim, he visibly got stuck in his follow-through, but Stokes’ response was to become even more inventive with his angles, including an extraordinary reverse sweep for six points back on Agha Salman. , a shot last seen during his 2019 Headingley miracle.

A second century in successive innings looked to be in store as the hits continued to come, until Afridi – back for the 40th with the ball just beginning to turn – landed a pinpoint yorker from the first ball to tear off his stump. With Stokes booked for surgery ahead of January’s Test tour of India, and given his previous absences from the ODI and T20I setups, this moment could well have marked the end of his involvement in the white-ball formats of the ‘England. It may not have been the glory he had envisioned after calling off his ODI retirement, but at least it was suitably removed from the ignominy the team had embraced earlier in the campaign.

And with a platform finally set for the middle order, Buttler also had a chance to end his campaign on a high – although, given his worrying loss of form, he was not entirely able to capitalize. He at least deployed his reverse sweep for the first time in the tournament – an extraordinary indictment of his stagnant confidence – but after making the first against Shadab, he scuffed the second through Wasim’s claws at back point, then survived a second chance in the same way as Rauf who walked the rope for a long time after clinging to an unfortunate training session.

Buttler even had time to cut Wasim on his own stumps without dislodging the bails, but just when it looked like destiny was feeling sorry for him, Rauf took him out with a timid ball from behind, to to cast a veil over an inglorious murder. tournament total of 138 races as of 3:33 p.m.

With Brook contributing with a thumping 30 off 17, Willey marked his retirement with a vigorous cameo of 15 off five balls, then carried that feel-good factor into his opening burst. His second delivery curled into Abdullah Shafique’s front pad to trap him in weight for a duck, and he had two off ten balls when Fakhar Zaman – the hero of Pakistan’s run chase against New Zealand – laid out Stokes at mid-range for 1.

Of Pakistan’s best, only Agha Salman, with 51 off 45, found a rhythm vaguely in keeping with the needs of a dogged chase, but Willey also put him on in his second spell, caught long-off for a satisfying 100th wicket. By then the game was over as a contest, thanks to two other players who may have just played their last ODIs. And if that’s the case, then Adil Rashid – England’s best player of a dismal campaign – appears to have signed off with 199 wickets, after two more breakthroughs, including a sharp google to bowl Saud Shakeel around his legs for 29.

England’s margin of victory would have been more emphatic but for a carefree tenth wicket stand of 53 between Wasim and No. 11 Rauf, who hit three sixes in his 23-ball 35. But by then, both teams’ thoughts had turned to what ifs.

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

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