Eng­land edged out

Pak­istan win T20 thriller de­spite in­spired Moeen

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Tim Wig­more

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

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