Malan leads England to a dominant win over Pakistan to secure the T20 series. After seven games, 12 days, and innumerable twists and turns, this helter-skelter T20 tour of Pakistan finished in a 4-3 triumph for England.
The deciding match, which had been one of the most keenly anticipated games in the recent decade, did not leave much for the local supporters to rejoice about. By 67 runs, their squad was defeated.
The game was effectively over within the first few overs of Pakistan’s innings. They have placed England in, since they thought of themselves as a pursuing team.
However, within the first eight deliveries, they had already lost both openers. Babar Azam was caught by Chris Woakes at the cover, while Mohammad Rizwan was bowled by Reece Topley two balls later.
England’s 209 already felt like a mountain, and this was as if its expedition leaders had stepped out of the tents and fallen directly into the next abyss.
The 601 runs recorded by Azam and Rizwan before to the commencement of this match were more than 200 more than the total scored by the other 13 Pakistani batters. That total appeared a very long way away now.
It faded further into the horizon when David Willey had Iftikhar Ahmed caught by Phil Salt off the top edge in the sixth over.
This especially gratified Willey because he had previously knocked him off his own game of bowling. Even though Pakistan was reduced to 3-37 at the end of the powerplay and the game was all but over, Shan Masood plodded on to 56 runs (off 43 balls) in a strange and lonely vigil for a long-dead inning.
What a disappointingly easy victory for the home team. For a while, the intensity level was higher than in most Twenty20 games.
It caught the light on the 15th over of England’s innings, when Dawid Malan and Harry Brook were together and set.
Malan scored 42 runs on 26 balls, Brook scored 23 runs on 14, and Azam brought in Mohammad Hasnain to the attack. The second ball Brook tried to scoop was traveling at 91 miles per hour, and it beat him. When he went for a third scoop, he was struck on the noggin.
Hasnain stopped to check on him, then turned back to his mark, and started in again, harder and faster, this time. All of a sudden the match was electrifying with threat.
The excitement of lightning-fast bowling flashed through the air. Malan swayed away from a bouncer, Brook played and missed at another.
They could barely eke out three runs from it. Then, on the opposite end, Haris Rauf joined in. He coaxed Brook into hitting a steepling catch to Azam at mid-on, but he dropped it.
By the time he was fielding at cover, he had already turned down a chance off Malan. Pakistan’s fielding cost them all as much as their batting did later in the match. Rauf served Brook a slower ball, which he missed, and then continued down the wicket, presumably to let him know how impressed he was with Brook’s rising star.
It was a bad call on Azam’s part to include Mohammad Wasim in the attack at this time. With Wasim bowling, England scored 14 runs. This was the kind of discriminate aggression that Moeen Ali has been calling for from the side, and it was executed brilliantly by the batsmen.
It was then time to return to Hasnain. Now the ball ricocheted off Malan’s elbow and into his ribs, knocking him prostrate and leaving him gasping for air.
After getting up, he attempted a slog sweep for six and missed. Wasim was forced to bowl the last over after Rauf took the 19th over and had Malan caught in the deep by an unlucky fielder.
England saw their chance and took it. In a 20-run over, Malan pulled him for one six and Brook smacked him for another. Costing 61 runs in four overs, he was seven runs more expensive than Rauf and Hasnain’s eight-over partnership. Malan shot a tour-high 78 off just 47 balls.
He needed it, not least since earlier in the innings he had helped run out Salt. Hasnain had just bowled Alex Hales leg before with another wickedly quick ball when Malan came in.
Hasnain hit Malan on the thigh, and Salt came for a leg bye. Malan was so nervous about Hasnain’s LBW appeal that by the time he chose to send Salt back again he could nearly have tapped him on the nose with his outstretched palm.
Salt doubled back the way he came and made a futile lunge for the line, while Malan gazed at his feet, as if he had only just realised his shoelaces had come undone.
Ben Duckett was ran out also, although Malan was blameless for that one.
He played the ball down at his feet; it bounced up past Rizwan, who pulled it down one-handed and flicked the bails off as Duckett pushed forward for a run.
These were uncommon flaws, though, nearly forgotten (at least almost forgotten by everyone except Salt) by the end of what turned out to be one of England’s most authoritative displays this year. Following the final buzzer, the crickets in the stadium rafters could be heard singing their hearts out.
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