A measured 53 off just 40 balls from the returning Alex Hales, helped England beat Pakistan by six wickets in the first of seven T20 Internationals between the two sides.
The win for the tourists was their first in 17 years over the 2009 World T20 winners Pakistan. Hosts Pakistan lost the toss and were put in to bat and could only post a miserly 158-7.
This was despite the home side , who usually are slow out of the blocks, making an uncharacteristically fast start here. Having been 89-1 after 9.3 overs and 109-2 after 13.3, the drop-off from Babar Azam’s men was quite dramatic.
Mohammed Rizwan top-scored (68 off 46) to keep his recent stellar form going and there were some good contributions from Babar Azam at the top of the order (31 off 24) and Iftikhar Ahmed (28 off 17).
As valuable contributions as those contributions were, the lack of middle-order power shall I say, hurt Pakistan in this match. Surprisingly there was no Shadab Khan or Asif Ali, two players who have powered the home side out of trouble in the past.
With Mohammed Nawaz and Khushdil Shah used for the power-hitter role, this experiment (if it was that) hasn’t worked. I hate the phrase, but Khushdil is seen as a finisher, but arguably the left-hander has been found out, as teams work to bowl to the Multan Sultans all-rounder in a set way, to a set-field.
Shaan Masood, batting at four was also another strange decision. The 32-year-old Derbyshire T20 captain is an opener and has worked well with Rizwan at the top of the order for the Sultans.
Personally, I think that Masood should be batting in the top-three and Haider Ali should be at four, Shaan Masood didn’t seem comfortable in that position.
Asif Ali is tailor-made at five, Shadab at six and Mohammed Nawaz at seven. Of course, tactics and in-game situations can change the order, but I think a team along these lines.
Much criticism will be aimed at Pakistan, but credit must go to England. They bowled well, fielded well (like they always do) and batted in a controlled fashion.
The tourists did lose early wickets, but in Harry Brook (42 off 25), they have a serious player on their hands. In only his fifth appearance, the Yorkshire batsmen who of course won the Pakistan Super League title with Lahore Qalandars showed how to bat as a middle-order batsman.
Brook was aggressive and positive, but never appeared reckless, which is a credit to the man, his flawless knock, knocked the stuffing out of Pakistan’s attack. England had two left-arm seamers and two spinners, which added variety to their attack, which is something Pakistan didn’t have.
Amazingly, the home side had been able to call up several left-arm bowlers in years gone by, but if Shaheen Shah Afridi is injured, there’s not a left-arm seamer who can directly come in for the 22-year-old in the current crop of players.
For England and their stand-in captain Moeen Ali, they won’t need to change much for the second game, but for Pakistan, this game has left them with a bit to think about. The second T20I between the two sides will be played tomorrow (22/9) at the National Stadium in Karachi.
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