England ended their white-ball summer with yet another series success after clinching a thrilling T20 decider against Pakistan by three wickets.
Eoin Morgan’s team are seen as among the favourites for the World Cup later this year and it is their ability to come through in pressure moments like this that has earned them that reputation.
Set 155 to win, the hosts were wobbling on 112 for four after 15 overs of the chase before a partnership of 31 between Morgan and Dawid Malan steadied got their team.
However, that was only the start of the drama as another three wickets fell during an action-packed finale that saw Morgan break the back of the chase with 21 from 12 balls before falling two balls into the final over. At that four were still needed from as many deliveries and it was Chris Jordan who got the job done with a pair of hard-run twos that gave his team their ninth win in 11 T20 series.
With this being England’s final match before selecting their squad for this autumn’s T20 World Cup in the UAE, there was plenty riding on the outcome. Indeed, they couldn’t have asked for a better test of their credentials for that tournament than this – a series decider against a dangerous Pakistan team in front of a sold-out and raucous Old Trafford. As Morgan admitted before play: “It’s as close as we get to playing in a World Cup game.”
The sea of green in the stands and constant cacophony of horns hinted that the majority of the 21,000 crowd were rooting for the visitors. Yet those of a Lancashire persuasion would have been disappointed to have seen Matt Parkinson dropped after the young leg-spinner’s encouraging recent performances against Pakistan. No doubt the high stakes of the occasion led England to lean towards experience, with Morgan coming back into the XI after resting himself for his team’s series-levelling victory at Headingley three days earlier. David Willey was also recalled in place of Tom Curran.
It was a batting-heavy line-up, with man of the moment Liam Livingstone listed at No 7 after his recent heroics, including scoring England’s fastest century in any format in the first match of this series at Trent Bridge last Friday and the monster six off Haris Rauf that cleared Headingley’s Emerald Stand and is presumably still working its way across the Pennines towards Manchester.
As it was, England’s bowlers were tasked with trying to set this game up after Pakistan won the toss and opted to bat first.
They did a pretty decent job, too. Just as in the previous match in Leeds, the spinners played a key role in arresting Pakistan’s momentum and restricted them to what looked a gettable total of 154 for six.
With the ball gripping and his googly ripping, it was no surprise Adil Rashid returned his career-best T20 figures of four for 35.
The leg-spinner showed why he has been England’s most valuable white-ball bowler in recent years, striking three times in his first 10 balls after being introduced in the sixth over.
Babar Azam, Pakistan’s captain, was the first to go, succumbing to the googly, before Sohaib Maqsood and Mohammad Hafeez were both caught taking on Rashid in his next over. It meant after a fast start, Pakistan were 73 for three after 10 overs. The breaks were applied further by the off-spin of Moeen Ali, who did not concede a single boundary in his four overs and picked up the wicket of Fakhar Zaman during a remarkable spell of one for 19. Pakistan were struggling on 125 for five when Shadab Khan went aerial to hand Rashid his fourth wicket in the 17th over.
Yet in Mohammad Rizwan, who reached his half-century in 38 balls during a measured innings of 76, the tourists had a batsman who ensured his team would have something to bowl at.
It didn’t look enough when Roy got going early in the chase, the opener reaching his first half-century in this format in 30 balls during the 10th over.
By halfway stage of the innings England needed 72 to win from 60 balls and having only lost an out-of-sorts Jos Buttler.
However, the loss of Jason Roy in the 11th over sparked a collapse of three for 10 that got Pakistan back into the match. Things became further complicated for England when Jonny Bairstow fell after mistiming a big shot to Imad Wasim, the equation for victory now 51 from 40 deliveries with Malan and Moeen at the crease.
Hafeez cranked up the pressure further by bowling Moeen in the 15th over. Morgan got the bulk of the work done from there but there was still a contribution with the bat from Livingstone – a single six that reduced the target to six from seven balls before Jordan clinched victory in a dramatic final over.