Cardiff: Pakistan one-day captain Shahid Afridi said he hoped his side could now focus on their cricket rather than bat away a slew of 'fixing' allegations after their return to international duty ended in defeat.
World Twenty20 champions England beat Pakistan by five wickets in the first of a two-match Twenty20 series here on Sunday, holding their opponents to just 126 for four. This was Pakistan's first fixture since Test captain Salman Butt and bowlers Mohammad Aamer and Mohammad Asif were suspended by the International Cricket Council after newspaper allegations the trio were involved in a betting scam that saw no-balls deliberately bowled in last week's fourth Test at Lord's.
"We have to play to cricket, we don't take these things with us (on to the field)," Afridi told reporters. Afridi was encouraged by the way Pakistan, with the leg-spinner himself taking two for 27, sparked an England collapse from 42 for one to 62 for five before an unbroken stand of 67 between Eoin Morgan (38 not out) and man-of-the-match Michael Yardy (35 not out) saw his side defeated.
"The way my boys played I am very happy. I know it's not a perfect total but the way our boys played was good," Afridi explained. "At one time it looked like we were going to win this game. But the way Morgan and Yardy played, they did very well," said the Pakistan all-rounder.
Afridi, looking ahead to Tuesday's second Twenty20 in Cardiff and the subsequent five one-dayers against England, added: "We are very confident and inshallah (god willing) you will see us play some good cricket. "And he said boosting the confidence of his players would not be a problem for either him or coach Waqar Younis. "This is my job and the coach's job to lift the morale and keep the guys in high spirits. "But he admitted: "After what has been going on for a week or ten days, it (the situation) has been very difficult.
"A smiling Afridi insisted none of his players had bought Sunday's News of the World, saying: "No-one buy, no-one buy". There had been concerns Pakistan might encounter a hostile reception from spectators but they were well-received by a sporting crowd of just under 11,000 and a delighted Afridi said: "It was good, the people enjoyed the game. We got some good support as well."
England captain Paul Collingwood insisted the controversy raging around Pakistan, stoked by fresh allegations on Sunday, had not distracted his team in any way. "We were absolutely 100 percent focused on the game. "He added he could understand why some fans might be losing faith in the integrity of cricket. "Of course I do. We all know we've got to get to the bottom of this and we'll do anything as players, or management, commentators, umpires to eradicate this from the game. It's as simple as that."
Sunday's match was England's first Twenty20 fixture since they beat Australia in the World Twenty20 final in Barbados in May. "I'm absolutely delighted," said Collingwood. "It was so nice to get the guys together because it's been a few months since some very fond memories and that success in the Caribbean."
England have dropped Kevin Pietersen from both their limited overs squads even though the admittedly out of form batsman was named man of the tournament at the World Twenty20. Instead he has returned to county cricket in a bid to regain confidence ahead of England's Ashes defence in Australia later this year and Collingwood said: "I understand the bigger picture in terms of KP going away and getting into some form.
"That's exactly what he's done."He's already scored a hundred (for Surrey against Sussex in a 40-over match on Saturday) so we are all delighted for him"I think with the big winter we've got coming up, you understand these kind of decisions."