New captain, new Pakistan? It’s always dangerous to look too far ahead as far as their cricket is concerned, but after one night in Manchester Sarfraz Ahmed has a 100% record as T20 skipper.
It can be difficult at the end of a long tour to lift for a one-off T20 the Super Series, of course, had already been decided lest anyone forget – but, amid the most frenzied atmosphere of the tour, which was marred by late pitch invasions, Pakistan secured a thumping nine-wicket victory with a massive 31 deliveries to spare.
They produced their most vibrant bowling and fielding display of the limited-overs leg of the trip to restrict England, who fielded the side which played the World T20 final in April, to 135 for 7: just 58 came off the final ten overs and only three boundaries were struck after the Powerplay.
The chase was a canter. Neither Sharjeel Khan nor Khalid Latif needed to bother with much running, by the end of the fourth over they had equalled England’s paltry tally of 10 fours. Both reached their fifties with sixes, Sharjeel off 30 balls and Latif, who only flew in for this match, brought up his maiden half-century off 34 deliveries.
With the ball Imad Wasim and Wahab Riaz, the latter smartly held back for the latter half of the innings as he bowled all his overs from the 11th onwards, produced the telling contributions. Imad, who bowled the first over then returned after the Powerplay (and a clonk on the head at point) did not concede a boundary and removed both England openers. Wahab generated fearsome speed, upwards of 95mph on occasion, mixed with smart changes of pace, to leave the middle order in a tangle.
After a couple of early overs of assessing conditions, England initially made good progress as Jason Roy and Alex Hales took them to 53 without loss in the Powerplay. Then Roy was lbw trying to reverse sweep Imad and from there England almost went into reverse. Hales fell slog-sweeping at Imad, as he did at Lord’s, and next ball Joe Root uppercut Hasan Ali to third man.
Jos Buttler, who missed the final two ODIs with a hamstring niggle, looked in the mood for a rebuilding job, but 9 off four balls became 16 off 14 after two tight overs by Wahab and Hasan. He then carved the first delivery of Wahab’s second over to deep point.
Neither Ben Stokes or Eoin Morgan could get going and the harder England tried to hit the ball the worse off they became. England’s batting depth came to their aid in the World T20, most notably against Afghanistan, but there was no late charge on this occasion.
When David Willey clubbed Sohail Tanvir through the leg side it was the first boundary for 7.3 overs – and it would be the only one of the final 10 overs, an extraordinary statistic whether you are looking at from an England or Pakistan perspective.
Given England’s struggles to find the boundary after the first six overs, it felt a waste to see Liam Plunkett, who has shown this season he can clear the rope from the outset, only come in with three deliveries remaining and end up not facing a ball.
Pakistan dealt exclusively in boundaries until the third ball of the third over when Latif, who had taken 20 off Chris Jordan’s first over, tapped a single off Plunkett. The bowler was so shocked, that two balls late he flung a bouncer for five wides down the leg side.
After the fours came the sixes. Sharjeel deposited Stokes, playing his first T20I since the World T20 final, over long leg then twice took Adil Rashid over the leg-side boundary. Rashid, at least, had a modicum of revenge when another attempted smite down the ground was skied to cover. He should have had a second wicket, too, but Buttler missed a stumping chance off Babar Azam. It summed up England’s night, as their season ended with a whimper.