Moeen Ali falls short in dramatic finale as Pakistan take series lead

Mohammad Rizwan gives Pakistan fighting total, debutant Aamer Jamal holds nerve at death

Pakistan was given the opportunity to bat first for the second straight game, scraped to what seemed to be a low total, and had their bowlers save them. After being dismissed for 145 in 18.5 overs, the home team turned the tables on England with the bat, taking three wickets in the powerplay before applying pressure with the spin of Iftikhar Ahmed and Shadab Khan. Moeen Ali, who finished with an undefeated 51 off 36, nearly stole the victory with a magnificent lone hand, but rookie Aamer Jamal just about held his nerve, earning Pakistan a six-run victory and a 3-2 series lead.

Mohammad Rizwan’s strike rate has drawn a lot of criticism, but his performance perfectly captured why Pakistan values his steadiness so highly. Rizwan lasted until the 18th over and was the ninth wicket to fall due to an off-day with the bat and an excellent bowling performance by England, led by Mark Wood and David Willey. The next-highest score from a Pakistani hitter was 15, and he had amassed 63 off 46. It helped Pakistan achieve some semblance of respectability, especially considering that the outfield and pitch were in danger of being slowed down by the humid, heavy weather. Even still, the odds were stacked against them because Pakistan had never successfully defended a total this low at home.

England had the opportunity to end the game quickly but chose to let Pakistan in with a string of strange, careless shots that went right to the fielders. In the fourth over, Phil Salt found the lone man in the deep on the leg side, but it had only taken Alex Hales five balls to hit backward point while attempting to slash a delivery that had spun and gripped. Ben Duckett fell into the most basic trap Pakistan had laid, slipping one straight down the deep third’s throat with the man stationed expressly for that shot. Ben Duckett has sometimes abused the field this series so effectively.

After the Powerplay was over, Babar Azam immediately turned to Shadab and paired him with Iftikhar after determining that it would be difficult for him to escape. England continued to lose wickets without scoring many runs because they were unable to stick or twist against the two. England didn’t realise a stunning heist was underway until Moeen, who had struggled through the first part of his innings, started to go off the rails. Before Jamal maintained his composure and finished the game with the final delivery, a barrage of fours and sixes off the centre of his bat brought the game far.

Wood on fire

Giving Wood a break for whatever reason causes him to come back with all guns blazing. He traumatised Pakistan in the third T20I after a layoff due to injury with the kind of blistering pace the hosts have long regarded as their inheritance, even registering 97mph/156kph on the speed gun. After taking a break for the fourth game, he resumed where he left off in Lahore, once more exuding a level of fire that Pakistan was unable to contain. He started out at a low-to-mid 90 mph, forcing Rizwan into a draw shot before launching a length ball at Babar at 95 mph/152 kph. After pulling two balls, one of them flew at him at 93 mph (150 kph) and fell into square leg’s clutches.

Everyone is troubled by pace, as Pakistan is all too aware, regardless of the batter or their unique strengths and shortcomings. In an attempt to pull a 92 mph/148 kph length ball, Haider Ali found himself immobilised at the crease and was only successful in top-edging the ball straight up into the air.

Wood demonstrated in the middle overs that he was just as cunning as he was quick. Who wouldn’t back away outside the leg stump against a bowler in such terrifying form, he thought as he saw Asif Ali backing away. Wood abandoned the shorter length and finished him off with a yorker to the leg stump. In the same over, Mohammad Nawaz made a mistake by aimlessly wandering down the pitch and giving England another wicket. At that time, the Englishman had recorded numbers of 3-0-9-3, which didn’t at all flatter him.

Pakistan go slow

Pakistan chose the exact opposite strategy, bringing in Iftikhar and the returning Shadab straight after the powerplay as the surface became increasingly slippery and the weather more soggy. The pair bowled out their allotted quota in a single eight-over burst that felt like a fever dream for England. In contrast to Shadab, who got the ball to skid and stick in the pitch, Iftikhar nearly always slipped them through flat while being careful to avoid the batters’ hitting arcs. It made what seemed to be a simple chase into a terrible, chaotic ordeal. Out of those 48 deliveries, England only scored 42 runs and two boundaries while losing both Dawid Malan and Harry Brook. That scene in the play had started with the necessary rate was 7.42 when the couple began, but by the end, it had risen to 10.50.

Moeen’s mastery

The majority of the inning, Moeen appeared to be in hibernation, content to rotate the strike and even take a backseat to Dawid Malan and eventually Sam Curran. He had only managed 14 out of his first 19 balls and appeared to be finding the going as difficult as his teammates. However, there were indications that he was waking up from his sleep in the final five overs. He was equally impressive against fast bowlers and stolid against spinners. There was evidence that the game wasn’t quite finished when Wasim was cut through point in the sixteenth over. If Pakistan hadn’t noticed that warning sign, they surely did when Haris Rauf snuck a square leg six with casual abandon.

The game reached its climax with 15 needed in the final six overs after Wasim hit two more sixes and a four. When a slot ball was butchered over long-on to make the situation eight off three, Babar trusted Jamal to bowl it rather than Nawaz. By this point, Moeen was in the zone and hardly noticed that the shot had brought him to the halfway point. However, with Moeen declining singles, Jamal discovered the wide line that had kept him quiet, and England discovered that Pakistan’s small score was just out of their grasp.

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