England ended their white-ball summer with yet another series victory after clinching a final-over thriller in this T20 decider against Pakistan by three wickets.
Eoin Morgan’s team are 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 things.
However, that was only the start of the drama as another three wickets fell during an action-packed finale in which Morgan broke the back of the chase with 21 from 12 deliveries before falling two balls into Hasan Ali’s final over.
At that stage four were still needed from as many deliveries and it was Chris Jordan who got the job done with two balls to spare to give his team their ninth win in 11 T20 series.
With this being England’s final match before they select 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.
Having already come from behind to level the series at Headingley on Sunday, the fact England came through under extreme pressure will stand them in good stead in their attempt to add the T20 World Cup to the 50-over crown they won two summers ago.
Stuart Broad, working for Sky Sports on this match, certainly thinks it’s on. “Just watching Morgs lift the [series] trophy there, I think we’re going to win the World Cup,” he said. “We’ve got so much depth, they play fearless cricket, I just think we’re going to win the World Cup.”
Morgan, too, praised his team for toughing out the win on a slow pitch. “For the style we play, this is the worst possible wicket to play on,” he said. “We’re trying to push boundaries and become a better side. We’ll have learned a huge amount.”
England’s bowlers set this game up after Pakistan had won the toss and opted to bat first. Just as in the previous match in Leeds, the spinners played a key role in arresting Pakistan’s momentum. 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 that 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 Mohammad Rizwan’s measured unbeaten innings of 76 ensured his team would have something to bowl at.
It didn’t look enough when Jason Roy got going early in the chase, the opener reaching his half-century in 30 balls during the 10th over. By the halfway stage of the chase England needed 72 to win from 60 and had lost only an out-of-sorts Jos Buttler.
However, the loss of Roy in the 11th over sparked a collapse of three for 10 that got Pakistan right back into the match. Things became even more complicated for England when Jonny Bairstow fell to Imad Wasim. 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 Liam Livingstone – a single six that reduced the target to six from seven balls before Jordan clinched victory in a dramatic final over.
Livingstone’s two-ball cameo was on brand with what he has done so far in this series, including scoring England’s fastest century in any format in the first match at Trent Bridge and the monster six off Haris Rauf at Headingley that went viral.
The 27-year-old rightly won the man-of-the series award and now looks certain to be in England’s XI for the World Cup.
The same cannot be said of Malan, who was bowled by Hafeez in the penultimate over and whose failure to kick on after reaching 31 from 33 balls left his team with work to do.