England 129-6 (Pietersen 62no, Ajmal 4-23) beat
Pakistan 124-6 (Dernbach 2-24) by 5 runs
Third Twenty20 International, Abu Dhabi
Pakistan’s middle-order combined to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the final and decisive Twenty20 International in Abu Dhabi. Misbah-ul-Haq, Umar Akmal and Shahid Afridi all contributed to their own side’s eventual demise as England conceded just 30 runs from the final five overs of their stint in the field.
Pakistan had got themselves into a reasonable position in pursuit of England’s modest total of 129 for six following the early loss of Mohammad Hafeez at the beginning of the second over, as Awais Zia (23 from 28 balls) and Asad Shafiq put on 40 from 37 balls for the second wicket. Shafiq then shared a stand of 28 from 29 balls with Misbah-ul-Haq, but it was following his needless run-out for 34 from 32 balls, courtesy of a good throw from Jos Buttler, that their problems began.
Misbah looked to have things under control for a while as he and Umar Akmal took 15 from England’s final two overs of spin to leave them needing just 36 from the last five overs against the seamers. However, it was then that Akmal decided that he must finish things quickly and he launched into a frenetic assault – taking nine runs from Steven Finn’s last over – before continuing to swing from the hip but only succeeding in hitting Stuart Broad high into the night sky and finding Graeme Swann at deep mid-off.
Shahid Afridi came and went in a hurry – run-out following a lackadaisical effort at a second run – and it was left to Misbah to hit 13 from the last over. He failed – managing only seven before being bowled from the final delivery – to leave England celebrating their lowest ever defence of a total in Twenty20 Internationals, and more importantly a series victory.
Kevin Pietersen’s unbeaten 62 had earlier laid the foundations for England’s match-winning total after Stuart Broad had elected to bat on a tired-looking pitch. He and Craig Kieswetter (17 from 17 balls) made the most of the opening overs, but, following the introduction of Saeed Ajmal, the rest of their batsmen looked all at sea.
Ravi Bopara, Eoin Morgan, Jonathan Bairstow and Jos Buttler all perished for single figure scores as Ajmal ended with four for 23, and it was left a late flurry from Samit Patel (16 from 10) and Pietersen to get England up to a par score.
In the end their total proved just enough – in spite of England’s two spinners being slightly disadvantaged by some late dew – as Misbah and Umar Akmal, in particular, found a way to throw away a virtually impregnable position through a mixture of the former’s defensiveness and the latter’s hot-headedness.
The manner of Pakistan’s defeat, and Misbah’s prominent role in it, will doubtless heap yet more pressure on their under-fire captain, with the Pakistani media seemingly quick to forget the key role he played in their 3-0 Test series triumph only three weeks ago.
© Cricket World 2012