England 200 (Buttler 59, Hasnain 3-51) beat Pakistan 155 for 9 (Mahmood 3-35) by 45 runs
England’s spinners combined to secure a series-levelling victory in the second T20I of the series against Pakistan in Leeds. Adil Rashid, Matt Parkinson and Moeen Ali claimed five wickets for 87 runs in their 11 overs combined as England defended a total of 200 to secure a 45-run win.
It means the series will be decided in the third and final game to be played at Emirates Old Trafford on Tuesday.
For much of the afternoon, this was a pitch that looked full of runs. Certainly seamers gained little joy from it, with England’s total of 200 appearing little better than par when Pakistan’s openers started their chase by plundering 43 from their first five overs.
But England’s spinners gained a surprising amount of assistance from the surface. Sohaib Maqsood and Azam Khan were both stumped off Rashid and Parkinson respectively, while Fakhar Zaman was bowled by a beauty from Moeen, which gripped, turned and took his off stump. With Mohammad Rizwan hitting a full toss back at Rashid and Mohammad Hafeez mishitting to the leg-side boundary, Pakistan lost 5 for 34 in six overs in the middle of their innings, which effectively defined the game.
On a surface on which seamers experienced little other than heartache – Chris Jordan bowled only one over in the Pakistan innings – it was a performance that showed the depth and versatility of England’s bowling attack and will, perhaps, provide some encouragement ahead of the T20 World Cup on the slow, dry wickets of the UAE
Earlier, a high-quality half-century from Jos Buttler helped England to a competitive total of 200 on another decent batting track. Buttler had not played a game since sustaining a calf injury during the victory over Sri Lanka in Cardiff almost a month ago, but you would never have known it to watch him.
Timing the ball beautifully, Buttler produced a series of conventional – if unusually sweetly hit – strokes off front and back foot, as well as scooping Mohammad Hasnain for a six over fine leg.
Although nobody went on to make an especially large individual score, Player of the Match Moeen Ali’s 36 from 16 balls followed by Liam Livingstone’s 38 from 23 ensured the innings retained momentum and England ended the 14th over with 150 on the board.
While the innings fell away a little from that point – England subsided from 137-3 to 200 all-out, managing only 10 from the final two overs of their innings – it proved more than enough as Pakistan’s batters struggled against the spin.
What next for Morgan?
As a key character in the revolution that took England from world chumps to World Champs, Eoin Morgan’s reputation is assured. He remains a figure of huge authority within the England set-up, too, and will probably remain once after his playing days are over.
But his decision to leave himself out for this match was intriguing. While he had indicated ahead of the first game of this series that England intended to use it to take a look at different combinations and options, the fact is he has reached 30 only twice in his 17 most-recent international innings. And in his last 15 T20Is, he is averaging 12.10 at a strike-rate of 124.74.
None of this means his place in the side is in immediate doubt. Batting in the middle order is notoriously tough in T20 cricket and England have very few contenders for the spot. Morgan has a vast amount of credit in the bank.
But, given the competition for places among England batters – the likes of Alex Hales, Joe Root and Tom Banton are among those currently unable to break into the side and Ben is Stokes currently out as he continues his rehabilitation from a finger injury – and Jos Buttler’s presence a natural replacement as captain, that is a run of form that is bound to start raising concerns.
Moeen Ali played an aggressive cameo Getty Images
At first glance, Imad Wasim’s figures of 2 for 37 don’t look especially pretty. He conceded almost 10 an over, after all, and was struck for three sixes. At one stage in his first over, he had bowled only three legitimate deliveries and already conceded 11 runs; he could have been forgiven for thinking he was in for a rough afternoon.
But he also claimed two important wickets. And, despite bowling two overs in the Powerplay, delivered 11 dot balls. Nobody in the game bowled more. On another flat surface with relatively short boundaries, it was an impressive contribution and, on another day, those early wickets of Jason Roy and Dawid Malan could have proved decisive.
One of the characteristics of England’s limited-overs cricket in recent years has been their commitment to the positive approach. This has routinely seen the lower-middle order continue to attack even if the top order have been blown away with batters as good as Adil Rashid (who has 10 first-class centuries) sometimes coming in as low as No. 11.
Might that be changing a little? While there is no obvious alteration in England’s approach – they continue to attack all the way down the order – there are, perhaps, one or two questions about the depth of their batting.
In this side, for example, Tom Curran came in at No. 7 (he had only batted as high in one previous T20I) and Rashid came in at No. 9. It meant the top order didn’t have quite the same safety net as before and might, in time, result in them playing slightly more careful cricket.
This was not England’s first choice side, of course. The likes of Sam Curran and Chris Woakes might well come into the side ahead of the T20 World Cup. But the fact that they were bowled out in successive matches for the first time in their T20I history – albeit having made 200 on each occasion – was a reminder, perhaps, about the value of such batting depth.
Eyes on Livingstone
So vital a player has Liam Livingstone suddenly become in this side, that even his dismissals are entertaining. Having just hit a vast six – the ball disappeared over the top of the new stand which borders the rugby ground; as big a hit as most have seen – he was run out when an attempted scoop somehow found its way to square leg. And while Haris Rauf had knocked off one bail with his elbow before completing the run-out, the other one remained in place to ensure the stumps could still be broken. The groan that went round the ground suggested that Livingstone has quickly become something of a crowd favourite – a remarkable thing for a Lancashire man in Leeds.
George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo
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