LAHORE: By the end of a series which was supposed to help Pakistan find their “best combination” for the upcoming T20 World Cup, their problems are glaring.
Pakistan’s over-reliance on their bowlers and openers was fully exposed with none showing up on a day when it meant the most — the decider with the seven-match series evenly-poised at 3-3.
A mammoth target proved too much for the side’s fragile middle-order, which looked anything but clueless as Pakistan succumbed to a 67-run loss on Sunday after Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan fell early following England’s relentless onslaught.
Ahead of the T20 World Cup, Pakistan skipper Babar admitted the middle-order’s struggles were a “concern”.
“There’s always pressure on the middle order when wickets fall early,” Babar said during the post-match press conference. “But the momentum should continue when there’s a big target to chase, which did not happen today.”
The bowlers, who had helped Pakistan defend fairly low scores in the fourth and fifth Twenty 20 Internationals, were plundered all around the Gaddafi Stadium by the visitors who posted 209-3 courtesy an unbeaten 108-run partnership between Dawid Malan and Harry Brook.
Both could have had caused lesser damage, had it not been for Pakistan’s shocking fielding show. Malan was dropped twice while Brook survived a chance. Two of the three catches were dropped by Babar.
After being put in to bat, England, and Phil Salt, started where they left off from in the previous match. Salt opened the visitor’s account with a double before battering Mohammad Nawaz for the team’s first of many boundaries. High on confidence, Salt went down on one knee to hoist Nawaz towards long-on for another four.
An over after Salt had welcomed Mohammad Hasnain with heave through midwicket for his third four, his partner Alex Hales launched his onslaught.
The powerful right-hander dispatched Mohammad Wasim Jr for three boundaries in a row — past third-man, over midwicket and through cover — as the score read 35-0 by the end of the third over.
After Haris Rauf had bowled Pakistan’s first boundary-less over, the hosts looked like bouncing back when Hasnain trapped Hales plumb in front of the stumps and miscommunication between the arriving Malan and Salt ran the latter out for 20 off 12.
Malan took no time to put Pakistan back under pressure, with the left-hander nailing Hasnain past backward point and flicking one fine for boundaries on back-to-back deliveries.
Ben Duckett opened his boundary account with one off Haris on the last ball of the powerplay, taking England to 57-2.
The left-hander masterfully swept leg-spinner Shadab Khan for his second boundary.
Malan and Duckett hit a four each in Iftikhar Ahmed’s first over before launching Shadab for a six each in the next.
Duckett, however, fell prey to an extraordinary wicket-keeping effort by Rizwan, who dragged the ball from the front of the stumps to dislodge them as the batter struggled to make the crease after getting an under-edge.
It was the end of Duckett’s 19-ball knock for 30 and his 62-run stand with Malan, who was granted a repreive while playing at 29 in the 12th over when Babar dropped a straight-forward oppportunity at cover.
Malan celebrated with two fours off Wasim in the next over before the arriving Brook bludgeoned Iftikhar for his first six and a four in the 14th over.
Babar dropped another howler in the 16th, letting go of Brook with the right-hander at 25 off Haris.
After two overs without a boundary, things were back to normal when Malan hit Wasim for a four and picked up a single to reach his half-century off 34 balls. Brook wrapped up the over for a six off his pads.
Malan was given another life after hitting Hasnain a four and a six off in the 18th, when Wasim misjudged a simple catch after Malan miscued a slower one by Haris.
The final over saw Malan and Brook dispatch Wasim for 20 runs and bringing up a century stand between them.
In response, Pakistan started shattering from the word go. Babar, after hitting just one boundary, found Brook off Chris Woakes at shot-cover. Three deliveries later, Rizwan was castled by Reece Topley.
A boundary each by Shan Masood and Iftikhar was the last sign of intent, if there was any, by Pakistan to chase down the target. Iftikhar departed after finding Salt behind the wickets off Woakes after hitting Topley for two boundaries in a row.
Khushdil Shah and Shan looked like having no way out, managing Pakistan’s next boundary more than three overs later.
It was a dot balls galore, before Khushdil was caught by Salt off what could have been a wide ball behind the batter’s legs. Asif Ali managed only one boundary before getting caught in the deep off Woakes, with the match virtually over with the hosts’ at 100-5 by the end of the 15th over.
P. Salt run out Shadab 20
A. Hales lbw b Hasnain 18
D. Malan not out 78
B. Duckett run out Rizwan 30
H. Brook not out 46
EXTRAS (B-4, LB-3, W-10) 17
TOTAL (for three wickets, 20 overs) 209
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-39 (Hales), 2-39 (Salt), 3-101 (Duckett)
DID NOT BAT: Moeen Ali, S. Curran, D. Willey, C. Woakes, Adil Rashid, R. Topley
BOWLING: Nawaz 1-0-12-0, Hasnain 4-0-32-1 (2w), Wasim 4-0-61-0, Haris 4-0-24-0 (w1) Shadab 3-0-39-0 (2w), Iftikhar 4-0-34-0
Mohammad Rizwan b Topley 1
Babar Azam c Brook b Woakes 4
Shan Masood c Rashid b Woakes 56
Iftikhar Ahmed c Salt b Willey 19
Khushdil Shah c Salt b Rashid 27
Asif Ali c Topley b Woakes 7
Mohammad Nawaz c Woakes b Curran 9
Mohammad Wasim b Willey 5
Haris Rauf not out 1
Mohammad Hasnain not out 5
EXTRAS (LB-3, W-5) 8
TOTAL (for eight wickets, 20 overs) 142
FALL OF WICKETS: 1-5 (Babar), 2-5 (Rizwan), 3-33 (Iftikhar), 4-86 (Khushdil), 5-99 (Asif), 6-125 (Nawaz), 7-135 (Shan), 8-135 (Wasim)
DID NOT BAT: Shadab Khan
BOWLING: Woakes 4-0-26-3, Topley 4-0-34-1 (1w), Willey 4-0-22-2 (1w), Rashid 4-0-25-1, Moeen 1-0-5-0, Curran 3-0-27-1 (3w)
RESULT: England won by 67 runs.
SERIES: England won the seven match series 4-3.
PLAYER-OF-THE-MATCH: Dawid Malan
PLAYER-OF-THE-SERIES: Harry Brook.
Published in Dawn, October 3rd, 2022