England took on Pakistan in a three match T20 International series after defeating them 1-0 in the Test series. The series witnessed twists and turns of all kinds as the three matches ended with a No Result, an England win and a Pakistan win respectively. The 1-1 shared series had many moments to savour and performances to take positives from nonetheless.
While England went in with a completely different T20I set-up missing five of its premier players, Pakistan included a few of their reserves and white-ball specialists. Shoaib Malik, Harif Rauf, Mohammad Hafeez, Fakhar Zaman, Wahab Riaz were amongst the few who joined the team in the limited overs leg of the tour. Whereas, England allowed the young talents of Tom Banton, Saqib Mahmood, Lewis Gregory along with the limited-over regulars Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid and others to resume their cricket at the fore. Led by Eoin Morgan and vice-captain Moeen Ali, England seemed at ease sporting the depth in their cricketing options.
Rains were inadvertent yet impactful throughout the Test series allowing only a solitary Test to be completed. They continued through to spoil even the T20s at Manchester last week. In the first T20 International, England were poised at 131/6 when rain stopped play after 16 overs in the first innings. Tom Banton’s 71(46) had propelled the hosts to a solid start but the middle order lost plot in pursuit of quick runs. However, the raingods did not allow any further play possible for the day. The match was called off and both teams walked away with limited positives.
The second T20I at Old Trafford saw a high-scoring thriller where England, inspired by captain Eoin Morgan, chased down a mammoth 199 with rather ease. Entering to face a hat trick ball first up, Eoin Morgan rattled the Pakistan bowlers to all corners of the park right from the word go. Over the last two years, the English captain has been hitting the ball well and has been amongst runs consistently. His 69-run knock under pressure to take England home was only a representation of the confidence and command the left hander has had over the recent past. He set the stage up for the middle order to finish proceedings winning the game comfortably. David Malan, who also scored yet another impressive half century, his fifth in seven matches, finished the game with a boundary off the first ball of the last over.
Earlier, the Pakistan skipper Babar Azam continued his splendid run in T20s scoring a brilliant 56 off just 44 balls. Him, along with Zaman, set up the Pakistan innings well at the top allowing the experienced Mohammad Hafeez to continue the onslaught. The right-hander scored a quickfire 69 of just 36 balls thereby also announcing his return to the shortest format. The first innings gave a lot of positives to cheer about for the visitors but the finish was just not meant to be.
The third T20 saw pretty much a similar script as that off the second but gave Pakistan another go at defending their target well. Setting up another high target of 191, banking once again on the experienced Hafeez, Pakistan bowlers had their shot at redemption for the loss in the previous match. Hafeez, who came into bat in the fifth over, showed his class to power Pakistan to a decent total. His 86 run knock included 4 fours and 6 maximums, also earning him a well deserved Man of the Match. He was supported by Haider Ali, who became first ever Pakistani to score a fifty on his T20I debut. The youngster was crisp with his hitting and did not fear to take on the bowlers.
In the second innings, Pakistan managed to pick up wickets in consistent intervals, not allowing the top order to settle. Pakistan were able to pull back the run-chase for most part of the innings. It was in the 16th over however, that the visitors felt pressure where Moeen Ali belted Shadab Khan for 20 runs, including three huge sixes. It was followed by a 12-run over from Harif Rauf bringing the equation down to 30 needed of the last three with 5 wickets in hand. The match most times would favour the batting team but the likes of Shaeen Afridi and Wahab Riaz were good enough to restrict the Englishmen to five runs short of the target. The Pakistan bowling unit finally delivered what was expected of them to be done in the second T20.
The win for Pakistan in the Third T20 levelled the series 1-1 giving the Babar Azam-led side a consolation win. Mohammad Hafeez was adjudged the Man of the Series for his consecutive fifties. It brings Pakistan’s Tour of England to a close. However, international cricket’s stay in England is to stay for a little longer. Eoin Morgan’s England is slated to take on Aaron Finch’s Australia starting September 4th. Australia will play Three T20s and three ODIs before leaving for the IPL in the UAE.