This England team do not quite know when they are beaten.
Here they stubbornly refused to surrender their unbeaten T20 record in 2015, which had stretched to four games. After 40 overs of cricket, the match was tied at 154 runs each when Chris Woakes managed to limit a Pakistan side on the cusp of victory to nine runs in his final over. They had needed 10. Thus England’s first-ever super over was required to separate the teams.
England’s was bowled by Chris Jordan and by propelling a series of superb yorkers, he contrived to contain Shahid Afridi to three runs, a remarkable effort. England, with the captain and vice-captain,Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler, at the crease, scrambled the necessary runs off the fifth ball of Afridi’s super over. And they celebrated as if the World Cup was secured. It was quite an escape.
“That’s the first time I’ve been involved in a super over, in any form,” admitted Jordan. “It’s something we try to work on so we can deliver under pressure. I was able to hold my nerve.”
For a while England had looked in charge again. They had reduced Pakistan to 65 for five and the ball was turning prodigiously. Then to the delight of a throbbing stadium Shoaib Malik, with assistance from Afridi, resurrected the Pakistan innings. Their partnership of 63 looked to be the deciding factor but England would not yield. A six from the bat of Sohail Tanvir off the second ball of Woakes’ final over and the game seemed up but England, rejecting any demob happiness, clung on.
With two needed from two balls Shoaib was caught on the long-on boundary. Sohail swung at the last delivery and missed; the batsmen scrambled a bye and the scores were level. It had been a topsy-turvy match all the way.
As is often the case with a side possessing the longest batting lineup imaginable – Jordan and Adil Rashid were battling for the No10 spot – there were moments when it looked as if England might not last 20 overs. Their innings was frenetic enough. Two of them were out for golden ducks. Jason Roy was lbw to the first ball of the match bowled by the debutant Aamer Yamin; Moeen Ali thumped a long hop back into the hands of a jubilant Afridi. Meanwhile, Buttler ran himself out for two and Sam Billings was brilliantly caught by Umar Akmal. But there were enough contributors to ensure England a competitive total. Joe Root was as cultured as you can be in this form of the game until he missed a full-length ball from Afridi, who was Pakistan’s best bowler (though it was very puzzling that Shoiab Malik on a spinning pitch bowled just two overs).
Woakes was almost as fluent as he registered his highest T20 score for England, 37 from 24 balls. One of his sixes – off Anwar Ali, who had just dropped him – disappeared out of the stadium. However the glue was provided by James Vince, who has yet to fail for England. Vince opened the batting – as he does for Hampshire – instead of Alex Hales and he was out to the penultimate ball of the innings for 46. Statistically it was a curious innings although he did not receive a half-share of the strike. But in this instance it was a mature and appropriate effort. There was so much pandemonium at the other end that England were grateful for his stability.
However the pandemonium reached greater proportions when Pakistan’s run-chase commenced. The first over from David Willey was something of a marathon and included four wides and two wickets. Ahmed Shehzad, having struck his first ball to the cover boundary, was bowled, having a swing; then Willey propelled three consecutive leg-side wides, which were followed by yet another hare-brained run-out.
Once again Mohammad Hafeez was involved (he often is) and this time he was a victim. He ended up running to the same end as Rafatullah Mohmand and after long deliberation the umpires decided that it was Hafeez who had to go. This suited England nicely since Rafatullah would soon be lbw to Willey for a duck as the home side slumped to 11-3. What seems increasingly apparent is that Pakistan possess some dreadful runners. It is as if Hafeez and one or two others spent their formative years watching old footage of Geoffrey Boycott and Nasser Hussain at the crease.
After a mini-recovery the England spinners snatched two wickets on a surface where the ball was turning. Jordan produced one of his specials on the mid-wicket boundary to catch Akmal. It was a dramatic enough moment but it was soon to be overshadowed.
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