Visiting side rides on batsman's hard-hitting half-century to reach 160 for 5, and bowlers keep Pakistan down to 146
England’s decision to give a game to all its youngsters in the first Twenty20 International against Pakistan on Thursday (November 26) reaped substantial returns at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, as the visiting side secured a 14-run victory.
Sam Billings was the star for England with an explosive 53 off just 25 balls, a knock comprising five fours and two sixes, that boosted the team’s total to 160 for 5 after it chose bat. James Vince, on debut, also impressed, his 41 (36 balls) helping England stage a recovery after early wobbles. Eoin Morgan was the glue that held the innings together, his 45 off 38 balls coming in significant partnerships with both Billings and Vince.
Pakistan, despite a poor start, seemed in with a chance for as long as Sohaib Maqsood was around. He scored 24 off only 16 balls and his 32-run stand with Umar Akmal for the fifth wicket kept Pakistan’s hopes alive, but a flurry of wickets thereafter meant the chase became too steep. Sohail Tanvir and Wahab Riaz added 45 for the ninth wicket, but it was too tall an ask ,and Pakistan was eventually dismissed for 146 in 20 overs.
England went in with a largely inexperienced side, the youngsters being given a chance with an eye on the fast-approaching ICC World Twenty20 2016. Furthermore, Morgan’ decision to bat wasn’t looking entirely sound given the start that England had.
Pakistan’s pacemen – Anwar Ali and Sohail Tanvir – were tight early on, adding to the England batsmen’s struggle to execute their shots. Jason Roy (9) attempted a pull off Tanvir that was mistimed, Alex Hales’s (8) leading edge ended up at mid-off and Moeen Ali (0) sent Tanvir straight to the cover fielder. England was reduced to 19 for 3 within four overs
In came Vince for what surely would be a test of his mettle. He showed no sign of struggle though. It would have helped having Morgan at the other end, and the two decided to go after the bowlers. Vince was comfortable scoring on both sides of the wicket, and he only gained in confidence with each boundary. Together, they plundered 15 runs off a Wahab Riaz over, prompting the immediate introduction of spin.
Despite that, the two kept the scoreboard ticking. At one point, Vince even slog-swept Imran Khan for six, an effort matched by Morgan against Afridi three overs later, as England staged an impressive recovery. Their partnership had yielded 76 for the fourth wicket when Wahab returned and had Vince bowled with a deceptive slower ball.
But that had little effect on the momentum of the innings as Sam Billings walked in. In fact, such was the extent of the 24-year-old’s hitting that Morgan decided to take a back seat. Billings spared no bowler – he claimed 19 runs off an Imran over – in an exhibition of big hitting batting. The knock helped England post a good total.
Pakistan’s response was slow and cautious, but it lost wickets early. Within the first five overs, the scoreboard read 25 for 3, with the experienced duo of Sarfraz Ahmed (1) and Mohammad Hafeez (0) both nipped out. All the while, Rafatullah Mohmand, the debutant, had prodded it around to score 20 off 16 balls, but an attempt to be aggressive proved to be his undoing as he fell to Liam Plunkett.
In came Maqsood and attempted to increase the scoring rate, swinging his bat and rotating strike, but Mohammad Rizwan had his stumps disturbed by a Stephen Parry slower ball, and Pakistan was 42 for 4. Umar Akmal arrived to provide some support, and the two knuckled down and prodded the singles and the doubles. The plan was to inch the score closer to the target and launch an assault at a later stage, but a run-out – in which both batsmen ended up at the non-striker's end – resulted in Akmal walking back for a 14-ball 19.
Shahid Afridi lasted only two balls before Maqsood himself was stumped off a wide off Moeen. Anwar then hammered a 14-ball 20 before becoming Plunkett’s third wicket. Tanvir and Wahab attempted to keep the chase going with a valiant stand, with the former scoring an unbeaten 25 off 22 balls. But victory proved a step too far.
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