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England seals series despite Afridi heroics

Visitor, led by Jos Buttler in Eoin Morgan’s absence, keeps its cool to clinch three-run win in Dubai thriller

England seals series despite Afridi heroics - Cricket News
England sealed the three-match T20I series 2-0, with a match to go.
After a 3-1 win in the One-Day International series and a 14-run victory in the first Twenty20 International, the momentum had firmly swung in favour of England in the limited-overs leg of its tour of the United Arab Emirates, and it further stamped its authority with a nerve-wracking three-run win in the second T20I against Pakistan on Friday (November 27). 
 
With an eye on the series as well as preparations for the ICC World T20 next year, England shuffled its pack again, bringing in Jos Buttler, David Willey, Joe Root and Chris Woakes, and leaving out Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali, Chris Jordan and Reece Topley. Buttler, in Morgan’s absence, led the side.
 
After opting to bat, handy contributions from across the order helped England to 172 for 8 at Dubai International Stadium, but it was the visiting side’s bowlers, who held their nerves to keep Pakistan to 169 for 8 and seal the three-match series 2-0. 
 
Chasing 173 to win, Ahmed Shehzad and Rafatullah got off to a great start with a 51-run stand. Shehzad, who was out with an illness in the first T20I, was the more aggressive, plundering 16 runs off Willey in the third over. The two punished Liam Plunkett then, collecting a four and a six. But Stephen Parry foxed Shehzad with flight and turn, and Buttler completed the stumping to dismiss the opener for 28. 
 
A couple of quiet overs passed as Pakistan avoided any risk against the extra turn generated by Parry and Adil Rashid. However, the pressure got to Rafatullah, and he was stumped off Rashid for 23. Mohammad Hafeez and Shoaib Malik then added 30 quick runs off just 19 balls before Plunkett elicited an edge off Hafeez (25).
 
Sohaib Maqsood’s wicket in the next over further dented Pakistan’s chase, and when Plunkett accounted for Umar Akmal, it had slumped to 107 for 5.
 
Pakistan, however, seemed in with a chance as long as Shoaib Malik and Sarfraz Ahmed were around. However, Plunkett struck again to remove Malik (26) in the 17th over. 
 
With the asking rate moving up, Shahid Afridi chose to strut his stuff and blitzed his way to an eight-ball 24, including three sixes off Woakes in the 18th over. But Woakes had the last laugh when Afridi went for a big one only to send a thick outside edge to Plunkett at short third man.
 
With 24 runs required off 11 balls, Sarfraz struck a four off Willey, and an attempted direct hit deflected off Sarfraz’s bat to give Pakistan four extra runs, and the equation had boiled down to 11 off the last over.
 
But Sarfraz played on while trying to scoop Woakes and that tilted the scales again.
 
The capacity crowd erupted in delight when Sohail Tanvir saw Woakes off to the square-leg boundary to bring it down to seven off four balls. But three singles later, England heaved a collective sigh of relief when Anwar Ali swung and missed the last delivery. 
 
Earlier, England got off to a steady start, with Jason Roy finding the gaps with relative ease to raise visions of a big total. Alex Hales, the other opener, stuck around as the duo put on 32 runs before Afridi trapped Hales in front. Afridi had his second wicket when Sarfraz held on to a faint edge off Roy’s slog after much juggling. 
 
With England struggling to time the ball against spin, Afridi brought on Shehzad, and tightened the screws further by introducing Malik. Joe Root finally broke the shackles in the 11th over with a slog-swept six over midwicket. However, looking to slog sweep the second ball in succession, Root failed to get the elevation required to clear Afridi at mid-wicket and was out for 20. 
 
James Vince (38) carried on, showing no signs of discomfort against spin. He first struck a six off Wahab Riaz over long-on, and then took England into three figures with a classy lofted drive over the cover region for a six and a sweep over mid-wicket for four – both off Malik. In only his second T20I, Vince took the responsibility of accelerating the innings as he cashed in with another boundary off Malik. 
 
But Afridi ended Vince's promising innings when he tried to sweep again, only to send a top edge down to Anwar Ali at deep backward square-leg.
 
Afridi finished with remarkable figures of 3 for 15, and with 86 scalps, surpassed Saeed Ajmal as the leading wicket-taker in T20I history.
 
Sam Billings and Jos Buttler kept the scoreboard ticking over. Buttler even struck a couple of sixes, and together they plundered 16 runs off a Tanvir over. Taking the cue from Buttler, Billings smacked a straight six down the ground off Riaz, but was out soon after for 11, thanks to a brilliant catch by Akmal – Akmal caught it right by the long-on ropes but momentum took him over and he threw the ball up, planted his foot on the other side of the rope and hopped back on to complete the dismissal. 
 
Buttler (33) was the next to go, trying to reverse scoop a Tanvir delivery that he edged behind to Sarfraz. Twin strikes from Anwar in the 19th over, which accounted for Plunkett and Willey, almost trashed England’s hopes, but a Woakes cameo (15 off seven balls) ensured that England had a competitive total to defend, which it did.
 

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