England close in on ODI whitewash


England closed in on a series whitewash of Pakistan on Thursday, winning the fourth one-day international by four wickets at Headingley.

Chasing Pakistan's 247-8 in Leeds, half centuries from Ben Stokes (69) and Jonny Bairstow (61) guided Eoin Morgan's men into a commanding position, assisted by Joe Root (30).

Moeen Ali (45) did the rest, hitting Azhar Ali down the ground for six twice in quick succession to seal the win as the Pakistan captain, embarrassingly for the visitors, found himself running out of bowlers.

Mohammad Irfan will not remember the match fondly after twice being forced to leave the field due to fitness issues, managing just one delivery - a comical wide - from his last attempt at bowling an over. 

Veteran paceman Irfan (2-26) had made a good start by removing Jason Roy for 14 thanks to a low Mohammad Rizwan catch at second slip.

And Alex Hales was unable to repeat his Trent Bridge heroics, edging Irfan to wicketkeeper Sarfraz Ahmed for eight, just two days after notching his country's highest ODI score of 171 in a big win in Nottingham.

Root proved an improvement at three, getting a good start only to carelessly pull Hasan Ali (1-53) to Irfan at deep fine leg.

And when skipper Morgan nicked Umar Gul (1-39) to Sharjeel Khan for 11, England looked in trouble at 72-4.

Fortunately for the hosts, Stokes and Bairstow, the latter replacing late withdrawal Jos Buttler, came together to put on a crucial partnership of 103 for the fifth wicket.

After entertaining the home crowd with six fours and two maximums, Stokes was surely annoyed to get out for 69 with a weak slog-sweep to Babar Azam at deep midwicket off Imad Wasim (1-50).

And Bairstow's dismissal for 61 was also avoidable, as he was run out following a direct hit from Azhar.

But Moeen was unperturbed, with Azhar, bowling in place of the ailing Irfan, unable to contain the all-rounder from firing England to victory. 

Earlier, Pakistan won the toss and chose to bat, the skipper, as he did throughout the match, leading the charge by top scoring with 80.

The tourists needed their captain to fire, after openers Khan (16) and Sami Aslam (24) failed to build on their starts.

And while Azhar prospered, Pakistan's middle order offered little in the way of assistance, Azam (12), Sarfraz (12), Rizwan (6) and Mohammad Nawaz (13) all failing to make an impression.

Wasim offered some stubborn resistance, contributing 57 batting at number eight. 

Willey (0-40) in particular suffered at his hands, conceding 16 runs to the Swansea-born all-rounder in the 48th over alone.

Moeen (2-39), Adil Rashid (3-47) and Chris Jordan (2-42) did the damage for England, with Liam Plunkett (1-61) managing one scalp.  

Morgan and his players will now fancy their chances of securing a 5-0 series victory by winning in Cardiff on Sunday, with one Twenty20 international to follow in Manchester next week.