Cricket Results: Pakistan beats England in a nail-biting contest with Hafeez heroic inning – 3rd T20I

England vs Pakistan 3rd T20 – Results

Pakistan 190 for 4 (Hafeez 86*, Haider 54, Jordan 2-29) beat England 185 for 8 (Moeen 61, Riaz 2-26) by five runs

A 100-run partnership between two men two decades apart in age saw Pakistan eke out their first win of the tour on the day before they are due to return home. It denied England a sixth consecutive T20I series win, while Pakistan pick up a first away win in any format since the ODI World Cup last year. The 39-year old Mohammad Hafeez was the standout star of the win, caressing an unbeaten 52-ball 86 to power his side to 190, while a valiant fightback, spearheaded by Moeen Ali’s 33-ball 61, fell just five shy of powering England to a stunning win.

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It was a series that came down to the final ball, quite literally, and when Tom Curran lifted Haris Rauf for a gorgeous six over extra cover off the penultimate delivery, England needed one more such blow to seal a series win. Babar Azam panicked, while a swarm of fielders rushed to pester the fast bowler with all kinds of advice. He blocked it all out and sent down an unplayable yorker at 90mph to secure the win, the final two balls a microcosm of Pakistan on tour, and Pakistan in general. One minute down, next minute up.

It was Hafeez, perhaps unfairly lumped in with Shoaib Malik as an example of the visitors’ failure to adopt modern T20 practices, who provided the ballast to get the innings back on track after a faltering start. With Moeen having removed Fakhar Zaman early, and Curran knocking Babar’s stumps back soon after, England were enjoying the perfect Powerplay. Hafeez stablised the innings while Haider Ali, with the impudence of youth, went hell for leather, but once he lofted Adil Rashid for a six over midwicket, he roared straight into top gear. Helped, at times, by England bowling to his strengths and missing their lengths, Hafeez plundered 69 off the next 34 balls to spearhead the innings, taking them to within touching distance of the total that proved just short on Sunday.

Pakistan began this tour two months ago in a protective bubble, but when, on the final day, they removed the bubble-wrap off their youngest squad member, they discovered quite the player residing within. Haider began his T20I career looking like a man who knew how this format needed to be played, clearing his front leg off the second ball he faced, depositing it over cow corner. Time and again, when England appeared to set a field willing to yield a single to him in that area, he declined the deal, opting to go over the top instead. Having sat out and watched England ease to a target of 195 two days ago, he didn’t need complex statistical information to recognise a boundary would be handier than a single. Within no time, he had become the first Pakistani to score a half-century on debut, one that came in just 28 balls.

Wahab Riaz gets a hug AFP

Pakistan decided to leave out Mohammad Rizwan, so often sensational behind the stumps, in favour of Sarfaraz Ahmed, for a greater perceived ability with the bat. But while he didn’t feature in the first innings, but when a key moment arose, Sarfaraz froze. Quite literally, and somewhat inexplicably, when Shadab fooled the out-of-form Moeen to leave him stranded outside his crease, Sarfaraz failed to gather properly. Time stood still as Moeen looked back and watched helplessly, waiting to see the bails whipped off, while Sarfaraz appeared to cradle the ball, unable to get it to his hands, and then to the stumps. With England so far behind in the game, it seemed like a comedic footnote. When Moeen stormed to a half-century half an hour later, no one in green was grinning.

While the defeat might sting, Moeen’s return to form may yet prove the biggest positive for England. When, in the 16th over, he hit three sixes in four balls off Shadab, expending less energy than it presumably takes most people to butter bread, the idea this was a man out of form and bereft of confidence stretched credulity. When he displayed his T20 smarts with a couple of sneakily stolen boundaries off Shaheen Afridi in the 18th, to bring England within touching distance of victory, he seemed indispensable. Now, he may well be.

England’s first ten overs with the bat, though, was perhaps what cost them most dearly. With the game being played on a fresh pitch and a very short boundary on one side, the hosts would have fancied a chase of 191, but that became significantly more challenging when Afridi bowled Jonny Bairstow with a perfect outswinging yorker that took the base of the off stump with it. Dawid Malan fell trying to clear the square leg boundary, only for Fakhar Zaman to pluck it out of the air on tiptoe, but Tom Banton kept the momentum going. With his captain Eoin Morgan, he struck up the sort of partnership that might have put them back on track, notably never letting the normally economical Imad Wasim settle, spanking four fours off his first seven balls.

It would all end horribly, though, with Morgan, in the form of his career, dismissed in the worst possible way. Brilliant work in the circle saw Azam cut off what should have been a boundary, and Morgan, cantering towards the other end, found himself stranded mid-pitch. It put even more pressure on Banton to ensure he went deep, but he fell five balls later to Haris Rauf, trapped in front and ruled lbw on review. It meant asking a shade too much of the lower order, even if, on a tour where social distancing dominated the conversation, England got uncomfortably close.