England edged a nail-biting T20I decider at Old Trafford on Tuesday to complete a comeback and win the series against Pakistan 2-1.
England had squared the series with victory at Headingley on Sunday, setting up a winner-takes-all encounter in Manchester in the final match of Pakistan’s limited-overs tour.
And Eoin Morgan had his spinners and opening batter Jason Roy to thank for the win, with Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali the pick of the bowlers on the night and Roy smashing a match-defining 64 to set up the run chase.
Pakistan won the toss and opted to bat first on the spin-friendly Old Trafford wicket. But the arrival of England’s spinners into the attack put the skids under a solid start from the tourists.
Rashid removed captain Babar Azam for 11 with only his second ball, leaving Pakistan 42/1 in the final over of the powerplay. And the leg-spinner picked up two more wickets in his second over, taking the scalps of both Sohaib Maqsood (13) and Mohammad Hafeez (1).
The 33-year-old finished with career-best T20I figures of 4/35 from his four overs, but was arguably out-bowled by the near-flawless Moeen, who conceded just 19 runs in his four overs, with Pakistan failing to hit the 34-year-old off-spinner for a single boundary.
All-rounder Liam Livingstone, picked at number seven on the night, chipped in with three further overs as England bowled 11 overs of spin, equalling the most spin deliveries bowled by England in a T20I, and illustrating the slow and spinning nature of the pitch.
In the end, it was Pakistan opener Mohammad Rizwan who did the legwork in a competitive score of 154/6 from the 20 overs, with Rizwan finishing on an unbeaten 76 from 57 balls.
England looked to be strolling to victory as Roy got the home side ahead of the rate with a blistering 36-ball 64.
But a scratchy 21 from 22 balls by fellow opener Jos Buttler was a sign of things to come in the England reply, with Jonny Bairstow struggling to five from eight deliveries and Dawid Malan hobbling his way to 31 off 33.
With the pressure on England to up the rate, Moeen attempted a big heave off only the third ball he faced, making no contact as Mohammad Hafeez cleaned him up.
But captain Morgan, following the same approach, found a bit of timely form, smashing two sixes in a quick-fire 21 to put England on the brink of victory.
England still required 12 to win off eight balls when a devastated Malan was bowled by Hafeez. But a first-ball six from Livingstone removed much of the remaining pressure and Chris Jordan finished the job, scampering through for a second run to seal the win with two balls of the final over remaining.
The series victory ensures England remain at the top of the ICC Men’s T20I rankings, while Pakistan stay fourth.
Speaking after the series win, the England captain said the side will have taken an awful lot from eking out a win on a surface so poorly suited to his team’s preferred style of play.
“It means a huge amount, this is the worst wicket for our gameplan so we will learn a huge amount from that,” Morgan said.
“I don't think the ball will spin like that in the UAE (at the World Cup later this year), it didn't spin like that in the IPL, but unnatural as it is to play like that for Jos Buttler, the partnership with Roy set up the chase.
“Guys have achieved when they came in and played, so we have plenty of options when it comes to selection. We have 17 or 18 vying for 15 places.”
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