A bewitching, twisting game, full of unpredictable turns and hitches, ended in a three-run victory for Pakistan. It was a match England lost, won and lost again in the space of 10 crazy minutes. At their start, they needed 33 runs from 18 balls to beat Pakistan’s 166, and were relying on Liam Dawson and Adil Rashid to do it against Mohammad Hasnain, who had already taken two for 16 with some wickedly quick bowling. They say heroes can be found in the most unlikely places, but outside of Dawson’s home village of Goatacre, there cannot have been many people watching who expected what happened next.
Dawson walloped a six down the ground, then glanced a four to third man off a no-ball, he stuck the free hit through mid-wicket, uppercut the next over the slips, and glanced the fifth through square leg. By the time he had taken a single off the final delivery, he’d hit 24 runs off the over, which was one more than he had scored in his 10 previous T20 innings for England. “I think that took everyone by surprise,” said the head coach, Matthew Mott. “I don’t think in our wildest dreams we ever imagined we would end up in that position.”
The National Stadium was awfully quiet now. A lot of the 30,000 people who had spent the evening screaming and cheering were already leaving because England needed only nine from the final 12 balls. Dawson scored four of them off the second ball of Haris Rauf’s over. Then the game turned again.
Rauf bounced Dawson, who was so amped up that he tried to pull the ball and was caught at short mid-wicket, a shot he replayed endlessly when he was back off the pitch. In came Olly Stone, with five needed, and then out he went again, bowled by his first delivery. Rauf’s hat-trick ball was a 96mph yorker which almost had Reece Topley lbw.
The people making to leave turned right back round into the ground, where they pressed up close against the mesh fence. Topley, all elbows and knees, took a leg bye which left him facing at the start of Mohammad Wasim’s final over with four runs needed. Rashid, desperate to get on strike, was almost run out off the first delivery, and then Topley, beaten home by Shan Masood’s underarm throw, actually was off the second. Karachi erupted in celebration while, among the English players slumped by the boundary-side, Dawson was utterly distraught.
Mott was not. “It was a knife-edge game and we’ll draw plenty from it,” he said. “It was a fantastic opportunity to see how we handled ourselves under pressure and I thought we did a good job of it.” It did not look as if they would get so close. Pakistan’s total was built around another large opening stand from Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, who put on 97 together.
Of course it was glorious, full of artful cuts and glances, meaty drives and hefty pulls. While the two of them were together, England, who had brought in Stone for Mark Wood and David Willey for Sam Curran, looked pretty powerless to do anything about it.
Then Azam was caught at mid-wicket trying to sweep Rashid, and the game slowed right down again, as if, having built the platform, Pakistan’s batsmen wanted to stop a tea break before they put it to use. Rizwan and Masood, who was badly dropped by Alex Hales, scored only three boundaries between them in the next six overs. It took a couple of hefty late blows from Asif Ali in the last over to satisfy the crowd’s incessant cries of: “We want sixers! We want sixers!”
The modest total receded into the distance when England’s top order collapsed in a heap. They were 14 for three after 12 deliveries and Harry Brook and Ben Duckett were back together again. Duckett, who continues to bat like a man who has spent three years waiting for his opportunity, began to claw England forwards with a flurry of fours off Wasim. Then Brook pressed on with Moeen Ali. They both hit glorious sixes off Mohammad Nawaz, but he got his revenge by bowling Ali as he charged down the wicket. Brook was caught at fine leg and in came Dawson, for the start of that extraordinary final few overs.
The series moves to Lahore with the scores tied two-all. England should get stronger as the week goes on, with Jos Buttler, Wood, and Chris Woakes all set to come back into the team. If Pakistan play like this again, they will need to be.