Manchester: Mohammad Hafeez answered the critics raising concerns about his age as he scored a blistering unbeaten 86 off 52 balls (4×4, 6×6) to guide Pakistan to a series-levelling 5 run victory against England in the final T20I at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Hafeez was ably supported by 19-year-old debutant Haider Ali who scored a brilliant half-century (54 off 33 balls; 4×5, 6×2) to level the three-match series 1-1.
The duo set the tone for Pakistan’s innings and struck together to stitch a 100-run stand for the third wicket. Later on, Pakistani bowlers did well to put the brakes on the English batsmen despite late fireworks from Moeen Ali.
Just like in the previous game, England won the toss and decided to bowl first, perhaps looking to repeat their fortunes from the last game where skipper Eoin Morgan led from the front and chased down Pakistan’s total comfortably.
Skipper Babar Azam and Fakhar Zaman failed to provide a good start this time around, falling cheaply which brought debutant Haider Ali and Hafeez to the crease. Hafeez, twenty-years older than his compatriot at the crease, played the sheet anchor’s role as he immersed himself into rebuilding the innings. Ali, looked comfortable in the middle with no signs of any nerves as he went about his business with poise.
The two launched a scintillating counter-attack and peppered the entire field with some mesmerising shots which bumped-up Pakistan’s run-rate to nine an over. The merger of experience and fresh blood did the trick when the unlikely pair completed a hundred-run stand. But, Ali was dismissed soon after in the 15th over after having completed his fifty.
Shadab Khan was an able deputy for Hafeez at the death when the latter single-handedly took charge and hit some exquisite shots to finish Pakistan’s innings at 190/4.
English openers too, couldn’t provide a rapid start as Jonny Bairstow was dismissed by Shaheen Afridi in the first over. Dawid Malan, who scored a fifty in the last game, was also dismissed soon afterwards by left-arm spinner Imad Wasim.
Tom Banton, who was the top-scorer in the washed-out first game, continued to keep England in the game with a fighting 46 off 31 balls (4×8). But, much to the dismay of the home side, wickets kept tumbling at regular intervals with last match’s hero and captain Eoin Morgan getting run-out by his contemporary Babar Azam.
Sam Billings and Moeen Ali engaged in a 57-run stand for the fifth wicket which kept England in the game. After Billings dismissal (26 off 24 balls; 4×2, 6×1), Ali went on a rout of Pakistani bowlers and was middling the ball beautifully.
At one stage it looked like another late victory from England was on the cards but with 17 needed from 8 deliveries, Wahab Riaz dismissed him caught and bowled. Riaz, 35, was brought back into the side in place of Mohammad Amir. The tail-enders for the hosts couldn’t muster up a revival as England lost by 5 runs.
The exciting mix of exuberance of the youth and experience paid dividends for Pakistan as the changes made in the starting eleven all returned strong performances.