As Cricket returned on free-to-air TV across the United Kingdom on Sunday, England also returned to their merry way of pounding and stamping their white-ball dominance upon everything they touch. Following a frustratingly long spell of rains that disrupted three matches on the trot, we finally had our hands on a rain-less affair – a high-scoring game that went the hosts’ way.
The great thing about this limited-overs English side is the batting depth that it possesses. It is the same depth that offers a free license to all its batsmen to go on an all-out onslaught right from the word go. Teams are often blown away by the number of fireworks that keep materializing from England’s line-up. The same happened with Pakistan on Sunday as they saw their apparently gargantuan total of 195 ripped to pieces with England cruising through to victory, relatively unfazed.
The likes of Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan, and Dawid Malan chipped in with crucial contributions throughout the run-chase. The Three Lions needed a terrific commencement and the duo of Bairstow and Banton provided just that as the hosts rollicked along during the powerplay. What makes the staggering chase even more special was the fact that England were without three of their premier T20 players: Jason Roy, Jos Buttler, and Ben Stokes.
The bowling battery, however, did look a bit rusty as the likes of Chris Jordan and Tom Curran failed to perfect the execution of their variations. The slower balls just didn’t work – sticking into the pitch and offering the batsmen all the time in the world to get underneath and clobber them. This might prompt Morgan and the team management to slot in David Willey in place of either of the two pacers. Saqib Mahmood was off the mark, too, and can be benched, as well, for the third and final T20I.
England’s Probable XI: Tom Banton, Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan, Moeen Ali, Sam Billings (wk), Lewis Gregory, Tom Curran, Chris Jordan, Adil Rashid, David Willey.
Pakistan would have been left distraught after a disappointing day in the field where they just never looked in full control of the game despite putting up such a massive total. Pakistan seems to be having a knack of letting the match go from a position of strength, by the looks of this tour, thus far. In one way or another, the second T20I bore lots of resemblance with the opening Test match of the tour.
Not many would have anticipated a Pakistan defeat at the halfway mark. The Men in Green are known for their prowess in defending totals in T20 Cricket. They have an exceptionally sound bowling attack and seemed favorites to overwhelm Morgan’s England in the previous outing. That wasn’t to be, however, as all the bowlers, barring Shadab Khan, went the journey. To make matters worse for Babar Azam and co, Mohammad Amir pulled his hamstring during his 2nd over and couldn’t complete his spell. This meant that Pakistan had to utilize Iftikhar Ahmed’s part-time spin which offered the English middle-order a perfect chance to excel and thrive.
Despite the hiccups with the ball, Pakistan would take the positives that their batsmen induced. Led by Mohammad Hafeez’s powerful knock of 69 off 36 balls, the top and middle orders contributed heftily to keep upping the ante throughout the first innings. It is expected that Pakistan will retain the same batting options for the final match of the tour as well. As for the bowling department, Amir is set to miss out and has been sidelined after incurring a hamstring injury. Wahab Riaz, the veteran Pakistan pacer, is likely to replace him. Mohammad Hasnain may also get a go tonight if Pakistan decide to rest Shaheen Afridi, who has played all matches on this tour, thus far.
Pakistan’s Probable XI: Babar Azam (c), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Shadab Khan, Shaheen Shah Afridi/ Mohammad Hasnain, Wahab Riaz, Haris Rauf.
Batsmen from both teams enjoyed batting on this surface which proved to be a belter. The fans can expect another high-scoring affair as the decks are not expected to change a lot throughout the series. The skipper winning the toss may look to field first. As for the weather, it is said to be partly sunny during the evening with no rain around in the radar. We should get a proper, 40-over outing with a sound chance for Pakistan to level the series and conclude the tour on a high.