England secure victory in final over after wobbles against spin in their chase
England 155 for 7 (Roy 64) beat Pakistan 154 for 6 (Rizwan 76*, Rashid 4-35) by three wickets
Watching international cricket at Old Trafford, it’s easy sometimes to forget you aren’t in the subcontinent for the atmosphere Asian fans bring to the stadium. But it was the surface upon which England scraped to an achingly tense three-wicket victory over Pakistan which made you feel they might as well have been back playing cricket in the UAE.
The visitors, who had opted to bat first after winning the toss, appeared always off-balance, behind the par score, and under pressure, even as they got off to a solid enough start, bringing up the 50 inside the Powerplay for the loss off just Babar Azam. On a pitch that was taking more turn than any previously this series, that was more than good enough, with this never likely to be the sort of run-fest Headingley and Trent Bridge habitually play out. The boundaries, too, were larger at Old Trafford than anywhere else in this T20I series, and both sides knew anything above 170 could become tricky to run down.
Roy did little to alleviate that impression in a supreme assault on Shaheen Afridi first up, smashing, caressing and placing him for four fours in an over, before taking the attack to Imad Wasim and Usman Qadir. His reputation against spin bowling stands significantly rehabilitated, and soon enough, the asking rate had been brought down below seven.
But England began to lose regular wickets to the spinners, and once Mohammad Hafeez was belatedly thrown into the mix, the asking rate crept back up, and Pakistan crept back into the contest. Dawid Malan struggled to keep the runs flowing, and it wasn’t until Eoin Morgan clobbered Hasan Ali at the top and tail of the 18th over that the hosts climbed back into the ascendancy. Pakistan continued to chip away with the wickets, but when Chris Jordan squeezed one into the leg side and hared back for the second, Pakistan had run out of runs to play with.
Rizwan’s radiant form
When might it be fair to stop calling whatever Rizwan is doing in T20I cricket a purple patch and just accept he’s rather a good batter in the format? Months ago, most likely. He has now gone past 50 in eight innings in 2021, the joint-most in a calendar year, batting through an innings unbeaten four times: a T20I career record. On another two occasions, he was not out in a successful chase.
He carried on that rich vein of form, holding Pakistan’s innings together even as England wreaked havoc at the other end. He was the one who got Pakistan’s innings up and running with successive boundaries off Saqib Mahmood in the second over and a six off the first ball of the fourth. But Rizwan, as has been the case all year, isn’t interested in cameos; he’s more into innings building and – given this this is Pakistan – innings rebuilding. After Rashid knocked both Sohaib Maqsood and Hafeez out in three balls, there was plenty of the latter in evidence.
He played second fiddle to Fakhar Zaman while the left-hander stroked a breezy 24, bringing up his own half-century in 38 balls. When Zaman fell, Rizwan took control once more, and Rashid was clobbered for six off the first ball of his final over as Pakistan desperately tried to scrape to a total their bowlers would have a hope of defending. It looked as if Pakistan might have fallen just short, but with 76 off 57 Rizwan had done his best for the cause.
Rashid’s record-equalling night
Rashid was instrumental in derailing Pakistan’s chase in the second T20I, and equally detrimental to their hopes of piling on the runs here. The pitch helped, of course; only one T20I has seen more overs of spin than the 26 Old Trafford witnessed, and that came in Dhaka in 2011.
The googly that had a lacklustre Azam stumped was a harbinger of how much turn the surface would offer the slower bowlers, but ironically enough, the double-strike in his second over had less to do with Rashid’s guile than poor Pakistani execution. Maqsood holed out to long-on off one that was tossed up and right in his arc, with Hafeez then sending a long hop down deep square leg’s throat. But the pressure Rashid built up over his spell forced errors from the batters, and off the final ball of his spell, he got what he hadn’t yet achieved in his international career: a T20I four-for. His dismissal of Shadab Khan took the legspinner level with Stuart Broad with 65 wickets in the format, behind only Jordan.
More importantly, it kept slowing Pakistan down, and in a game that went to the 40th over, that might have made all the difference.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000