Pakistan 144-6 (Shoaib Malik 39) beat
England 136-6 (Umar Gul 3-18) by 8 runs
First Twenty20 International, Dubai
Pakistan's bowlers held their nerve to bowl their team to an eight-run victory against the Twenty20 World Champions in Dubai. Captain Misbah-ul-Haq rotated his bowlers well towards the end of England’s innings and was rewarded with three tidy overs from Saeed Ajmal and two wickets in the 18th over from Umar Gul to peg England back after Kevin Pietersen had given England an excellent start.
Pietersen's serene knock of 31 from 21 balls was the stand-out innings for the tourists after Pakistan had set them 145 for victory. He took 13 runs from Junaid Khan’s opening over, showing a particular preference for the leg-side, and looked like he might finish things in a hurry until he pulled long-hop from Shahid Afridi down Asad Shafiq’s throat at deep-midwicket.
A foot further and the ball might have travelled for six, but on such fine margins do results depend in top-level sport, and with Pietersen’s dismissal the rest of England’s batsmen displayed their customary weakness against Pakistan’s spinners. Mohammad Hafeez bowled tidily on his way to figures of two for 18 – picking up the scalps of Craig Kieswetter, again giving himself too much room and being bowled for 14, and Eoin Morgan also for 14 along the way – while Afridi ended with one for 27 from his four overs.
The return of Khan added some much needed impetus to England’s stuttering run chase as Ravi Bopara took 14 from his third over and six from the next from Ajmal to make England slight favourites. The reintroduction of Gul in the 16th over, however, changed all of that: he first bowled Bopara for 39, before claiming the decisive double strike of Jos Buttler (3) and Samit Patel next ball to leave England needing an unlikely 22 to win from the final two overs.
They were not helped in their pursuit of this unlikely target by Stuart Broad’s decision to promote Graeme Swann ahead of himself in the batting order. The result was that Swann scratched around for seven deliveries to end two not out, while Jonny Bairstow finished with 22 from 21 balls, as England pulled up short on 136 for six.
Earlier, Mohammad Hafeez (23 from 22 balls) and debutant Awais Zia (18 from 12) had got Pakistan off to an explosive start with the bat as Steven Finn, in particular, was expensive first up. However, Swann bowled with drift and spin to pick up three wickets at the cost of just 13 runs from his four overs, and, in the 11th over Pakistan were in danger of imploding at 73 for five.
Misbah-ul-Haq and Shoaib Malik came to their rescue, again showing the value of experience in this form of the game, with a stand of 71 for the sixth wicket, before Malik was caught athletically in the deep by Bairstow from the final ball of the innings, with Pakistan closing on 144 for six.
It proved to be enough, as England, needing 18 from the final over from Junaid Khan, could manage only nine, meaning that Pakistan go into the second match on Saturday with a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
© Cricket World 2012