England

England v Pakistan, 2nd T20I, Old Trafford – Captain Morgan, Malan hit fifties to guide England to 1-0 lead

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The first completed T20 International of the summer saw England pull off a very steep run-chase, courtesy a captain’s knock from Eoin Morgan, along with valuable contributions from Dawid Malan and Jonny Bairstow at the top. An indisciplined effort from the bowlers certainly did not help Pakistan’s case, despite the twin breakthroughs from Shadab Khan just after the powerplay and the late burst of wickets towards the end.

Although Eoin Morgan won the toss and opted to field first, citing the conditions, it was not the ideal day for the bowlers. Pakistan got off to a flying start, with Pakistan captain Babar Azam and his opening partner Fakhar Zaman matched each other run for run, boundary for boundary in the first 7-8 Overs.

It was not exactly brute force and hits out of the ground that was piling up the runs, but classic, textbook Cricket shots that raced away to the fence in spite of the extremely sluggish outfield. In fact, it took 8 overs for the first six to be hit, when Zaman cleared his front leg and slogged Adil Rashid over deep mid-wicket.

The duo had put on 72 for the first wicket when Fakhar Zaman, trying to repeat the same stroke off Rashid in the same over, top-edged a full delivery from outside off stump, and Tom Banton ran in from long-on to complete the catch.

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Two more boundaries off Rashid in his next over helped Babar reach his 14th T20I fifty. At the other end, Mohammad Hafeez, who came in at the fall of Zaman’s wicket, finally freed his arms having been kept quiet for 6 deliveries, elegantly pulling Saqib Mahmood over the deep backward square-leg boundary.

Much was expected from Adil Rashid today, with the kind of surface on offer, and his record in T20 Internationals. Unfortunately, today was one of those days where he just could not find his desired line and length to bowl on, frequently banging the ball halfway, and in the quest to compensate for that he pitched it up a lot more than necessary. Although he did end up taking Babar’s wicket in his final over with yet another half-tracker – Babar failing to get the required height, holing out to Billings at deep mid-wicket, bowling figures of 2 for 32 runs in his four overs were not ideal for someone of Rashid’s calibre.

It was time for the two veterans, Hafeez and Shoaib Malik, to bank on the great start provided by their openers and take Pakistan to a healthy score, and they certainly did not disappoint. Hafeez, fondly known as Professor Sahab among his teammates, justified the reason behind his spot in the T20 team at the age of 39, having battled COVID-19 and further isolation upon reaching England earlier in the tour.

Malik did well in providing him with the support from the other end, presenting him the opportunity to play as many deliveries as possible by getting off-strike, as Hafeez teed off, helping Pakistan take 13 off the 15th over from Mahmood and 23 from the following from Tom Curran, which had two massive tonks over square-leg and a gorgeous hit to the extra-cover fence from Hafeez.

The fall of Malik’s wicket, caught by Morgan at extra cover off Jordan, brought Iftikhar Ahmed to the crease. With 3 and a half overs remaining and Hafeez breathing fire, he had a lot of clarity on his role in the middle; providing Hafeez with as much strike as possible.

Hafeez got to his fifty with a scoop over short fine off Mahmood in the next over and celebrated with his trademark, bottle-like raise of the bat along with a fist pump, acknowledging the cheers and batting coach Younis Khan bowing down to him from the dressing room.

Despite conceding boundaries in the first three deliveries, Saqib Mahmood did well to concede only three in the remainder of the over. Jordan, too, after conceding a six in the first ball of the 19th, another pull from Hafeez, this time over mid-wicket, came back strongly to give only 5 away from the next five. With the momentum taken away from the Pakistan innings, Tom Curran closed out the innings quite well despite missing the yorker on multiple occasions, conceding only 7 runs along with the wicket of Hafeez.

England

Hafeez hit a 36-ball 69 to power Pakistan to 195

Motivated with their effort with the ball towards the end, England, much like their opponents early on, got off to a flier chasing the target of 196 set by the Men in Green. Jonny Bairstow and Tom Banton churned out 65 runs in the powerplay, with Bairstow playing the role of the aggressor today.

After a tight first over from Imad Wasim, which saw only 3 runs being conceded, Bairstow, who was dismissed cheaply in the previous game, simply teed off in typical Bairstow fashion, taking a liking to the away angling left-arm pace of both Shaheen Afridi and Mohammad Amir. Shaheen and Amir haplessly went for 20 and 25 runs in their first two overs, as Bairstow looked in ominous form, nearing his fifty.

Shadab Khan was then introduced into the attack, and he brought Pakistan immediately back into the game, dismissing both the openers in consecutive deliveries. Bairstow first went, trying to sweep a googly, he only succeeded in top-edging it straight down to backward square leg, where Imad Wasim took a good catch, covering a lot of ground. Banton fell leg before to the same kind of delivery, playing the same stroke next ball.

The two new batsmen, Dawid Malan and Eoin Morgan took over the roles from Tom Banton and Jonny Bairstow and began regathering the chase. Morgan, in his usual manner, took on the bowler who was exerting the pressure on England, smashing Shadab for a six and a four in his next over.

Iftikhar Ahmed was another bowler who was keeping things tight from his end, conceding only 13 off his first two. His third went for 18, as the duo brought up their 50-run stand. Things went from bad to worse for Pakistan two more expensive overs later, as Amir was seen walking back up the stairs to the dressing room, prompting an anxious discussion among the Pakistan players. It was later disclosed that Amir had a busted hamstring, rendering his part in the third game uncertain.

Morgan brought up his half-century in that over, dismissing a full toss from Shaheen Afridi over the mid-wicket boundary. He finished the over with 3 back-to-back boundaries, bringing down the target to close to a run-a-ball for England.

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Malan dispatched the re-introduced Imad Wasim for successive boundaries in the following over, as Pakistan seemed to run out of luck or ideas. Having said that, they eventually found some luck, as Morgan, trying to clear the deep square leg boundary off Haris Rauf in the 17th over, hit it down the throat of substitute fielder Khushdil Shah.

Moeen Ali followed in the next over, finding absolutely no timing in the pull shot to a drag-down from Shadab Khan. Babar Azam took the catch at mid-wicket, and Pakistan seemed to claw their way back into the game.

England required a run per ball in their last 12 deliveries. Haris started off the penultimate over quite well, allowing only three singles, the third one bringing up Malan’s fifty. But then, Billings did really well to anticipate a slower delivery and ramp Rauf over short fine leg for four. He followed that up with a baseball-like swat over the bowler’s head for another boundary to level the scores.

Although he was dismissed off the last delivery of Rauf’s over trying to hit the winning runs through point; hitting it straight to Fakhar Zaman, Malan ensured that there were no more hiccups, smashing a full toss from Shaheen Afridi through cover-point for four to seal the deal for England with 5 wickets and balls to spare.

 

Brief scores:

Pakistan 1st Innings 195/4 (20 Overs)

Hafeez 69, Babar 56, Rashid 2/32

England 2nd Innings 199/5 (19.1 Overs)

Morgan 66, Malan 54*, Shadab Khan 3/34

England won by 5 wickets with 5 balls to spare

Player of The Match: Eoin Morgan