LAHORE: After yet another night of riveting drama on Wednesday, Pakistan and England clash in the sixth Twenty20 International at the Gaddafi Stadium on Friday with the hosts eyeing a series-clinching win with a game to spare and the tourists hoping to stay alive till the final match on Sunday.
Pakistan edged past England by five runs on Wednesday, successfully defending 145 with debutant pacer Aamir Jamal holding his nerve in a tense final over to see his side take a 3-2 lead in the series.
That triumph followed a narrow three-run victory for Pakistan in the fourth T20 in Karachi last Sunday.
“The target is to win the series whilst continuing to test different combinations ahead of the Twenty20 World Cup [in Australia next month],” Pakistan vice-captain Shadab Khan told reporters after Wednesday’s match.
Shadab played his first match of the series on Wednesday and provided Pakistan with the crucial wicket of Dawid Malan, the only batter in the English top-order who impressed with a 36-run knock.
England had been reduced to 85-6 but a scintillating 51 not out from captain Moeen Ali brought them close in a low-scoring match.
“It was a good batting track but I could not find the reason why not many runs were scored despite the dew later on in the match,” said Shadab.
Shadab was also full of praise for Aamir, who defended 15 runs in the final over and said the 26-year-old “reposed the confidence put in him by the team.”
Aamir denied Moeen the room to hit in the final over, bowling wide yorkers and drew praise from the England skipper.
“It was a very good last over and you can’t take anything away from him,” Moeen told reporters after the match. “I was just hoping he missed the wide yorker….like the one I got hold of [and hit for six on the third delivery of the final over].
“With the wet ball and the ball probably being out of shape and him on his debut and nervous….he bowled really well and sometimes you have just got to give it to him.”
More concerning for Moeen, however, was the fact that England batters continued in their attacking verve despite the situation of the match demanding them to stay at the crease.
It was an approach that was slammed by former England cricketers with Mark Butcher calling their batting “daft” while Nasser Hussain said the team were a “a little bit headless”.
And Moeen urged his batters to respect the conditions and game situation in the all-important sixth match of the series for his side.
“It was most disappointing loss, especially the way we batted,” reflected Moeen. “Of course, you want to play this attacking entertaining brand of cricket but mainly you also have to see the situation of the game and the conditions.
“Today all we needed was one partnership: 60-70 runs partnership at the top, we could have won the game. I feel today was most disappointing performance with the bat for sure. I feel we’re a better team than that.”
Apart from Moeen and Pakistan opener Mohammad Rizwan, no other batter could cross the half-century mark and the England skipper said his side had been finding it difficult to contain Riwzan, who has amassed 315 runs in the series.
“Rizwan is a brilliant player and he is somebody that we can learn a lot from,” said Moeen. “He saw the situation and adapted to the wicket. He was doing the same thing as he usually does but took the risk when he needed to and played properly when demanded by the situation.
“He is a fantastic player and very hard to stop and obviously we have found him difficult in this series so far. He is so busy and hits boundaries in awkward positions.”
After England batters including Harry Brook and Ben Duckett had hit Pakistan pacers at will during the first few matches of the series, it was Pakistan’s three-pronged spin attack of Shadab, Mohammad Nawaz and Iftikhar Ahmed that applied a choke-hold on them to help Pakistan defend a low total.
How England cope with the spin on Friday could well be the deciding factor in the match.
Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2022