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Babar Azam’s century fires Pakistan to 10-wicket T20 win against England | Pakistan v England 2022


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No one left the National Stadium early Thursday. Two days earlier, the fans had jumped out of the ground in the last few overs of England’s victory. This time, all 30,000 fans stayed until the end of a famous win. Along with Pakistani openers, Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, they chased England’s formidable 199 total with three balls left. It was the highest pursuit in men’s T20 cricket without losing a wicket. There has been a lot of talk in Pakistan about the weakness of the team’s middle class. The truth is that it doesn’t matter how everyone else hits when you have openers that can play like that.

Moeen Ali said the game changed when he got himself to throw over the 13th after which Pakistan was 104 for nothing. Azam pulled him over the middle of the wicket for a six and drove him through the wicket for another. By the time Rizwan hit a third over square leg of the last ball, the over had been 21. “I really feel like my over the game has cost us,” said Ali. “It was a gamble on my part, I almost tried to buy a wicket and it didn’t work out.” It is true that England ran out of ideas on how to drag the game back after that, but still he was generous to his team.


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The real turning point came in the fifth of the innings when Rizwan, at 23, buoyed the ball halfway to Liam Dawson and Alex Hales dropped the catch. Rizwan gave another chance in the next over, when Phil Salt missed a punch from the first ball of Adil Rashid’s spell, and a third much later in the game, when Ali dropped a hard shot at cover. “We’re taking our catches and it’s a different game in my opinion,” Ali said. Could be. But Azam’s innings were flawless. His first 30 runs were slightly better than a run-a-ball, but he finished 110 out of 66. It was a breathtaking innings, full of rushed singles, nasty cuts and bad pulls. Rizwan finished 88 out of 51.

Dawson had replaced Richard Gleeson which meant England ended up in the unusual position where they had an attack of three spinners and three left arm seamen. All that variety didn’t bother them much. “There were a few other things we should have tried,” Ali said remorsefully. “No one has really bowled a bouncer.” It was a little late to think about that now. Only Dawson and Sam Curran had real control over the score percentage. Pakistan has been particularly tough on David Willey, who has now thrown 7.3 overs for 85 runs in two games, and is sure to drop out for Friday’s game.

Ali says England will “make some changes”, hinting that some of the injured players in the squad, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Gleeson himself, may be available. Olly Stone is more likely. As Ali said, “in T20 cricket you want people who can bowl 90mph” and England missed that. Ali also knows better what to expect from the field. He admitted to misreading this one, which played surprisingly well for looking so dry and cracked, though he said he didn’t regret his decision. After all, England had hit pretty well themselves.

Moeen Ali in action against Pakistan for England.
Moeen Ali hit his half-century from just 23 balls, but his efforts were soon overshadowed by the Pakistani openers. Photo: Anjum Naveed/AP

It was built around an opening score of 42 between Hales and Salt, an inventive 43 out of 22 balls from Ben Duckett full of shovels and swipes and cans, a blistering 31 out of 19 from Harry Brook and, to top it off, a 23 ball fifty by Ali. He had said earlier this week that he really wanted to do something in Pakistan to raise money for the floods in the south of the country. He did just that by hitting four glorious sixes, each costing the sponsors a $1,000 donation. His partnership with Brook was worth 59 out of 27 balls.

But all their efforts were put in a new perspective by the way Pakistan struck. Azam and Rizwan hit 16 fours and nine sixes. Their bowlers also provided their fair share of entertainment, especially Haris Rauf and Shahnawaz Dahani, who each took two wickets. Dahani, who plays for the local province of Sindh, lit up the ground as he threw Hales and Dawid Malan with consecutive balls.

Dahani celebrated every wicket by turning on his heel and sprinting back as he came, wagging his finger and screaming frantically as if he was chasing someone who had just pinched his bike. That was all very entertaining, but led to an unfortunate moment later in the innings when he started all over again to celebrate Ali’s plunge into the deep end. He made it most of the way to the border before finally realizing, after hearing Azam scream, that Khushdil Shah had dropped the catch. As funny as that was, the fall of Hales meant that it was Dahani and his teammates who had the last laugh.