England edged out
Pakistan win T20 thriller despite inspired Moeen
Perhaps we should have known. If not from the shrieks that greeted Shaheen Afridi’s pulsating yorker to uproot Jonny Bairstow’s off stump in the opening over, then from Fakhar Zaman’s terrific catch on the edge of the boundary rope to snare Dawid Malan three overs later. Or, if we were still not convinced, from the smart ground fielding that led to Eoin Morgan’s run-out. After 66 long days in England, Pakistan wanted to go home – but they were in no mood to leave without a victory.
Even with these early blows, how England would make Pakistan fight. In pursuit of 191, Tom Banton continued his fine series with an enterprising 46, before Moeen Ali – perhaps emboldened by being asked to give the side’s team talk – closed an abject run of form with a stylish half-century.
The upshot was that England needed 19 from the final 12 balls as Wahab Riaz bowled the 19th over. With two brilliant interventions – a stunning run-out of Chris Jordan; then a well-directed bouncer that elicited a top edge from Moeen before the bowler himself took the catch – Riaz seemed to have ensured Pakistan would triumph.
Even then, this pulsating game had one late twist: Tom Curran launched the penultimate ball for six, leaving England needing six from the final delivery. But Curran could not get bat on Haris Rauf’s wide yorker and Pakistan had a win to sustain them on their trip home.
Given Pakistan’s sacrifice in coming to England, the monotony of two months in bio-secure conditions and their dominance of most of the first Test – only the barmy stand between Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes denied Pakistan victory in both the match and the series – only the most myopic English fan could begrudge them their triumph. If a tied Twenty 20 series was a long way short of the sum of Pakistan’s ambitions when they arrived in England on June 28, it beat the alternative they glimpsed while Moeen threatened to prise this modest prize from their grasp.
From start to end, this was a victory authored by Pakistan’s young and old. Their 190 for four was the work of a wonderful 100-run alliance between Mohammad Hafeez and Haider Ali – a 39-year-old and 19-year-old, matching each other stroke for stroke. While the newball spell of 20-year-old Shaheen helped set up victory, Pakistan were indebted to Riaz, a left-armer 15 years his senior finally playing his first international of the tour.
When Morgan fell after a mix-up with Banton, and then Banton himself fell lbw to Rauf after a Pakistan review, to leave England 69 for four and needing 122 from 12 overs, there was no hint of the drama to come. After an abject run of form – 10 runs for four times out against Ireland and Pakistan in the two limited-overs formats this summer – Moeen’s arrival at the crease hardly felt opportune for England.
As he stumbled to 12 runs from his first 12 balls, surviving a missed chance on seven, Moeen betrayed his lack of form. But from the moment he reverse-swept his 13th ball for four, Moeen and his bat were like old friends happily reunited. Three sixes in four balls from Shadab Khan, in the 16th over, put England in the ascendancy – they needed just 21 from 14 balls before Lewis Gregory was bowled.
Morgan, the England captain, said of Moeen’s innings: “He’s a joy to watch, very elegant, so for him to almost be the cornerstone of the back end of our innings was great.”
For all Hafeez’s imperiousness in his 86 not out, his excellence is hardly new: this was his 93rd T20 international, and he has now made four half-centuries in his last five of those innings. So altogether more significant for Pakistan’s development was the elan of Haider on his international debut.
As he launched his second ball over long on for six off Moeen, it was tempting to see Haider as another example of Pakistan’s capacity to unearth new talent out of a disorganised cricketing structure. Tempting but wrong. Haider, you see, is a child of the Pakistan Super League, his brilliant performances for Peshawar Zalmi marking him out as a man who can address Pakistan’s dearth of six-hitting.
Hafeez, who was named player of the series, said of Haider’s 54 off 33 balls: “It was brilliant to watch. He was great under pressure and just expressed himself in the way he plays everywhere.” When Haider greeted Gregory by launching him over the biggest boundary for six, it was hard to escape the feeling that this game represented both the onset of one international career and the end of another. In his eighth T20, this was the first time that Gregory had bowled his full allocation of four overs. Even allowing for excellent batting and a flat pitch, he can scarcely claim that figures of nought for 41 were an inaccurate reflection of how he bowled.
Hitting out: Moeen Ali goes on the attack against Pakistan, but his efforts proved in vain as the tourists beat England by five runs at Old Trafford to level the Twenty20 series at 1-1