KARACHI: England Lions, inspired by an undefeated half-century from Sam Billings, sealed a nervy five-wicket win in the fourth game against Pakistan ‘A’ in Dubai on Sunday night to level the five-match unofficial T20 series 2-2.
In a topsy-turvy encounter under lights at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, the Lions overcame a jittery start to a relatively modest chase for 119 when Pakistan ‘A’ skipper Junaid Khan and fellow left-arm paceman Zia-ul-Haq reduced the English tourists to 9-3 in the fourth over.
But Billings kept his cool to play a decisive innings of 61 off 48 balls while dominating a fourth-wicket partnership of 94 with Liam Dawson before the Lions got themselves over the line with 11 deliveries to spare.
Man-of-the-match Billings, who figured in England’s 3-0 whitewash of Pakistan in the T20 International series last month, struck four boundaries and two sixes, whole Dawson’s 35-ball 37 contained two fours and a six.
Junaid, who went wicketless in the each of the first three matches, dismissed his Lions counterpart James Vince for a duck on the fourth ball of the innings before sending back Tom Westley in his second over, also without scoring.
Zia had the in-form Dawid Malan caught behind by Saifullah Khan Bangash for six to put Pakistan ‘A’ in driving seat at that stage. But Billings and Dawson then took control to set up a thrilling finish to the series at the ICC Academy in Dubai on Wednesday.
Junaid later returned to get rid of Ross Whiteley (6) to emerge as the pick of the bowlers with excellent figures of 3-9 in four overs. Saifullah also had a fine game with four dismissals, including a stumping.
Earlier, Pakistan ‘A’, who were put in by Vince, suffered an inexplicable batting collapse after Sohaib Maqsood and Iftikhar Ahmed had lifted the team to a commanding 75-1 at the start of the 11th over.
But in the next 57 deliveries, Lions hit back to take eight wickets for the addition of only 41 runs. Vice-captain Sohaib, once again asked to open, was the top-scorer with 38 while hitting a brace of sixes and as many fours during his 35-ball contribution.
Iftikhar slammed two sixes and two fours to make 26 off 24 after Steven Finn, who has been inducted into the England squad for the upcoming Test series in South Africa, had sent back Sharjeel Khan for 10.
Mohammad Nawaz, coming into this game on the back of two first-ball ducks, scored a 12-ball 16 while Saifullah (13) was the only other Pakistan ‘A’ batsman to get into double figures.
Seamer Tom Curran, the 20-year-old son of former Zimbabwe all-rounder Kevin Curran, marked his first appearance in a representative for the country he is eligible to play for with a tidy four-over spell of 2-15.
Malan’s part-time leg-spin fetched him key scalps of Iftikhar and Sohaib for 24 runs while left-arm paceman Reece Topley’s 2-21 in four overs kept Pakistan ‘A’ in check.
Sharjeel Khan b Finn 10
Sohaib Maqsood c Westley b Malan 38
Iftikhar Ahmed c Overton b Malan 26
Babar Azam c Foakes b Curran 3
Mohammad Nawaz c Westley b Topley 16
Saad Nasim c Overton b Dawson 2
Saifullah Khan Bangash c Overton b Curran 13
Kashif Bhatti c Finn b Topley 1
Junaid Khan run out 2
Zia-ul-Haq not out 0
Mir Hamza not out 0
EXTRAS (B-1, LB-1, W-1, NB-2) 5
TOTAL (for nine wkts, 20 overs) 118
FALL OF WKTS: 1-14, 2-75, 3-79, 4-84, 5-87, 6-113, 7-114, 8-115, 9-116.
BOWLING: Topley 4-0-21-3 (1w); Finn 4-1-30-1 (2nb); Overton 1-0-7-0; Curran 4-1-15-2; Dawson 3-0-17-1; Malan 4-0-24-2.
J.M. Vince c Saifullah b Junaid 0
D.J. Malan c Saifullah b Zia 6
J. Westley c Kashif b Junaid 0
S.W. Billings not out 61
L.A. Dawson st Saifullah b Kashif 37
R.A. Whiteley c Saifullah b Junaid 6
B.T. Foakes not out 3
EXTRAS (LB-2, W-4) 6
TOTAL (for five wkts, 18.1 overs) 119
FALL OF WKTS: 1-0, 2-8, 3-9, 4-103, 5-111.
DID NOT BAT: J. Overton, T.K. Curran, R.J.W. Topley, S.T. Finn.
BOWLING: Junaid Khan 4-1-9-3; Mir Hamza 3-0-27-0 (2w); Zia-ul-Haq 2.1-0-15-1 (1w); Mohammad Nawaz 4-0-22-0; Kashif Bhatti 3-0-30-1 (1w); Saad Nasim 2-0-14-0.
RESULT: England Lions won by five wickets.
UMPIRES: Ahmed Shahab and Shozab Raza,
MATCH REFEREE: Mohammad Anees.
MAN-OF-THE-MATCH: Sam Billings.
FIFTH MATCH: Dubai (ICC Academy), Wednesday.
Published in Dawn, December 15th, 2015