LAHORE: Led by the belligerent Phil Salt, England flattened Pakistan at the Gaddafi Stadium on Friday night and this one will hurt the hosts who were left retrieving the ball from the boundary ropes.
In a explosive show of power-hitting in the shortest format of the game, Salt showed no mercy on the Pakistan bowlers, hitting them to all parts as England won the sixth Twenty20 International at a canter to the astonishment of a capacity crowd which had gathered in expectation of a series-clinching victory for the hosts.
England’s commanding eight-wicket victory with five-and-half overs to spare set up a Sunday showdown to decide the winner of this marathon seven-match series and Pakistan’s bowlers have a job on their hands to bounce back quickly from this mauling.
“Always nice to do it with the series in the balance,” said player-of-the-match Salt, who had been finding runs difficult to get in previous matches. “It’s a challenge at the top when you feel you’re playing well but picking out fielders and finding ways to get out. Pleased with the backing from the management about how they want me to play.”
Salt was unrelenting in his career-best 41-ball 88 and he and Alex Hales (27) quickly ended Pakistan’s hopes of defending 169 — thanks in no small part to captain Babar Azam’s composed 87 — as the England openers raised 50 for their side in just the third over.
“England’s use of the powerplay was the turning point,” rued Babar after seeing his bowlers fail in gaining a foothold in the match. “Salt took it away from us in the first three overs.”
Salt went on the attack from the very first delivery, hitting Mohammad Nawaz for a four and adding another two balls later, before turning up the ante in the second over when he welcomed Shahnawaz Dahani with a four through mid-off and a six over fine leg.
Hales got on the act in the same over with a square drive fetching him a boundary before he hit a six over cover as Dahani went for 22.
Mohammad Wasim Jr was then hit for four fours in his opening over — three times by Hales and once by Salt — and England were coasting.
Even Hales’ dimissal in the next over — top-edging Shadab Khan to Dahani at short fine-leg — didn’t stop their momentum as Salt smashed Nawaz for three fours and a towering six down the ground.
The incoming Dawid Malan (26) then got two boundaries off Wasim in the next over before it was the turn of Aamir Jamal — Pakistan’s final-over hero on his debut in the last match — to face the fire.
Aamir had helped Pakistan defend 15 runs in the last over on Wednesday but England were particularly severe on the new-comer.
Salt welcomed him with a boundary over cover and then completed his fifty on the next ball before Malan’s cover drive fetched him four. Salt then pulled Aamir for a four before flicking him for a six as England moved to 102-1 in the seventh over — the game well and truly out of Pakistan’s grasp.
Malan then hit Shadab for consecutive fours in the eighth over with Salt completing it with another boundary straight down the ground before getting back-to-back fours off Dahani in the following over.
Shadab returned to dismiss Malan leg before but that was the last time Pakistan celebrated as Ben Duckett (26 not out) combined with Salt to take England home.
Duckett reverse-swept and then swept Shadab for consecutive boundaries in the 12th over with Pakistan having no answers to the unrelenting onslaught.
Duckett got another boundary off Nawaz before both he and Salt got boundaries of Aamir’s following over as England bounced back from two close losses to level the series at 3-3.
Put into bat, Pakistan were off to a shaky start with debutant Mohammad Haris and Shan Masood departing quickly to leave the hosts at 15-2 two balls into the fourth over.
Haris, coming into the side in place of injured wicket-keeper Mohammad Rizwan, hit a six off Richard Gleeson to get off the mark in international cricket but fell three balls later after scoring seven when he mistimed a short ball to Adil Rashid at fine leg.
Shan fell without troubling the scorers, moving across left-arm pacer David Willey before being rapped on his pads before wasting a review. With the red-hot Rizwan — the top run-getter in the series — out, the onus was on Babar to steady the innings and the skipper stitched up a 48-run partnership with Haider Ali (18).
Babar and Haider dealt in boundaries with the former hitting two off Willey in the same over before getting another off Reece Topley.
Haider smashed Gleeson for a four and Babar dispatched Sam Curran for another to raise Pakistan’s 50 in the seventh over. Haider welcomed Adil Rashid with a six in the eighth but was gone the next over, caught by Ben Duckett at mid-wicket off Sam Curran while going for another big hit.
It was a 48-run partnership between Iftikhar Ahmed (31) and Babar that provided the real consolidation for Pakistan, powering them towards a big total.
Iftikhar batted in aggressive fashion and was especially severe on Rashid, who he hit for a four and a six. He hit another four and a six before becoming Curran’s second victim when he found Harry Brook at long-on.
Babar had completed his half-century before Iftikhar’s dismissal and soon joined Indian star Virat Kohli in becoming the fastest to complete 3000 T20 runs — in 81 matches — by hitting Gleeson for a six over long-on.
Babar then hit Willey for a six over extra-cover but the England pacer hit back when he had Asif Ali caught at deep-point for nine with the last ball of the 17th over.
Babar and Mohammad Nawaz (12) found run-scoring difficult in the next two overs before the final flourish came in the final over where they plundered Topley for 19.
Babar hit the third six of his innings as well as a seventh four while Nawaz got another six before being caught at long-on by Brook off the last ball of the innings.
Babar had said at the toss that he expected a score in the region of 160-170 to be a par score. He was proved to be grossly mistaken in the end.
Babar Azam not out 87
Mohammad Haris c Rashid b Gleeson 7
Shan Masood lbw b Willey 0
Haider Ali c Duckett b Curran 18
Iftikhar Ahmed c Brook b Curran 31
Asif Ali c Topley b Willey 9
Mohammad Nawaz c Brook b Topley 12
EXTRAS (LB-3, W-2) 5
TOTAL (for six wicket, 20 overs) 169
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-14 (Haris), 2-15 (Shan), 3-62 (Haider), 4-110 (Iftikhar), 5-136 (Asif), 6-169 (Nawaz)
DID NOT BAT: Shadab Khan, Aamir Jamal, Shahnawaz Dahani, Mohammad Wasim
BOWLING: Topley 4-0-31-1 (1w), Willey 4-0-32-2 (1w), Gleeson 4-0-39-1, Curran 4-0-26-2, Rashid 4-0-38-0
P. Salt not out 88
A. Hales c Shahnawaz b Shadab 27
D. Malan lbw b Shadab 26
B. Duckett not out 26
EXTRAS (LB-1, W-2) 3
TOTAL (for two wickets, 14.3 overs) 170
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-55 (Hales), 2-128 (Malan)
DID NOT BAT: H. Brook, M. Ali, S. Curran, D. Willey, A. Rashid, R. Gleeson, R. Topley
BOWLING: Nawaz 4-0-43-0, Shahnawaz 2-0-33-0 (1w), Wasim 2.3-0-29-0 (1w), Shadab 4-0-34-2, Aamir 2-0-29-0
RESULT: England won by eight wickets.
Published in Dawn, October 1st, 2022