The deafening acclaim at the National Stadium on Sunday night told the story of the tour thus far. Even taking into account the emotion and excitement of England ending their 17-year absence from Pakistan, there were fears beforehand that a seven-match T20I run was just too much to handle, but they were emphatically knocked down by the Game Four denouement in Karachi.
Haris Rauf’s raw, raucous bowling pace and Shan Masood’s dead eyes from the middle, combined to set the series in a game that England won, then lost, then won and lost again – much like their record in the series as a whole , actually. And as a result, part two of the tour, in Lahore, will witness at least two of the three live matches, and perhaps even the kind of winner-takes-all scenario in Sunday’s seventh match that could serve as the perfect preparation for the next match. This month’s T20 World Cup.
That’s the spin England is already putting on a series where, on paper and even for long passages of each match, they seem to be by far the better, more well-rounded outfit – especially with the bat. Yet they have been set back twice in contrasting remarkable fashion, taking ten wickets on Thursday and then two runs in Sunday’s cliffhanger.
“Yes, we would have loved to have won, but I think when you’re going into a World Cup you want to play against good opponents in difficult games and that’s it all,” England head coach Matthew Mott said on Sunday. night. However, for his own peace of mind, Mott wants this week to be the week in which his white-ball team secure their first series win of the post-Eoin Morgan era, after India and South Africa have just passed the summer.
At least England will get a better idea of where to fine-tune their game plans. Moeen Ali, the stand-in captain, for example, didn’t get a single left from his offspin on Sunday night, as his 21 run against Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan in Thursday’s beating had been the moment for their spectacular 203 run score. in overdrive. And by the time their subsequent score of 97 was softened by Pakistan’s sub-par 20-over total of 166 for 4, it looked like England had left the game at their mercy.
In response, however, their own at bat turned out to be a touch too loose for the occasion. To England’s credit they were able to recover from a score of 14 to 3 after 12 balls and take the game so deep – and with Harry Brook and Ben Duckett in such exciting free-flowing form, as Jos Buttler, Liam Livingstone , Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes are not sorely missed in the collective lineup. But equally Pakistan’s strength remains in fast bowling, and as Mark Wood proved for England on his solitary outing of the tour thus far, true pace is not a property against which much liberties can be taken.
Wood could very well be back in the running for this match as England seek a balance between match fitness and workload while continuing to return from an elbow injury, but Buttler won’t be at risk. His calf tear, sustained during the Hundred, remains a concern with just under a month until the start of the World Cup, and with three T20Is in Australia ahead of England’s opening night against Afghanistan on October 22, he may even be.” I’ll remain a bystander until they hit Down Under.
Meanwhile, the challenge for Pakistan is much the same as it has been throughout the series. Find a means to make a virtue of their obvious and obvious strengths, but avoid falling into a heap if Plan A fails them. So far, their percussion and bowling has proved irresistible in one match each. That ratio does not make them a favorite, but it does reinforce the feeling that you can never, ever write them off.
Pakistan: WLWLL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Location and conditions
Two comics have been prepared for the Lahore leg of the series, meaning that the surface for Wednesday’s game will be the same as that for Game Seven, with the alternative used between the whiles. Heavy rain on the eve of the game meant both teams had to cancel practice and thus had a chance to gauge conditions at this stage, although the field currently appears dry enough to warrant an extra spinner.
Pakistan (probably): 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Shan Masood, 4 Iftikhar Ahmed, 5 Khushdil Shah, 6 Asif Ali, 7 Shadab Khan / Usman Qadir, 8 Shahnawaz Dahani, 9 Naseem Shah, 10 Haris Rauf, 11 Mohammad Wasim
England: 1 Phil Salt (week), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Ben Duckett, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali (capt), 7 Sam Curran, 8 Liam Dawson, 9 Chris Woakes, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Mark Wood
Statistics and trivia
“When we lost in the summer, we played badly. You’re a bit grumpy about those results. It was a disappointing result last night, but it was a great game of cricket. Okay, we lost, but I feel we are playing well. cricket. We lost a lot of wickets in the power play, but we managed to stay in the game until the end.”
Moeen Ali is optimistic about England’s progress towards the World Cup.
Andrew Miller is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket