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February 23, 2012
Pakistan 144 for 6 (Malik 39, Swann 3-13) beat England 136 for 6 (Bopara 39, Gul 3-18) by 8 runs
For the first time since Pakistan and England locked horns in the United Arab Emirates, the atmosphere came alive. The advent of Twenty20 attracted a raucous crowd under Dubai Cricket Stadium's ring of fire and such was the delight at the outcome that Pakistan might almost have imagined they were at home.
As the clock ticked around towards 11.30pm local time, Pakistan squeezed to an eight-run victory, recovering their self-belief after a 4-0 caning in the ODI series with an excellent bowling display in defence of a competitive but far from daunting total. Umar Gul, who began the night with a maiden, was back to his best, Mohammad Hafeez burst with competitive edge and Saeed Ajmal's penultimate over was masterful. England needed 18 off the last over, from Junaid Khan, who had been the weak link in Pakistan's attack, but they never came close.
Pakistan's captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, had termed this series a "decider" after his side had pulled off a clean sweep in the Tests and England had responded in kind in the ODIs. There was plenty to play for and one of the most passionate cricket crowds Dubai has ever witnessed galvanised Pakistan.
Kevin Pietersen excelled with the bat for England, a batsman convinced that he is heading for the IPL with his superstar status reconfirmed, his 33 from 21 balls beginning with a calculated assault on Junaid and ending unluckily when he pulled Shahid Afridi and picked out the only fielder within many a mile, Asad Shafiq, at deep forward square. For the rest of England's batsmen it was a struggle, a succession of scrambled ones and twos.
Craig Kieswetter backed away so far to the leg side that he could not reach a delivery from Hafeez even though it bowled him leg stump. Ravi Bopara's 39 from 32 balls kept England in contention, but it was a gruelling affair, his sweep shot malfunctioning so often that he will be able to count the bruises.
Jos Buttler was out to his signature shot, shovelling Gul over his left shoulder but picking out Ajmal at short fine leg. When Samit Patel fell lbw to Gul first ball, at 121 for 6, England needed 24 from 16 balls, but they failed to hit a single boundary in the last six overs.
Stuart Broad, England's third captain in 17 days, inserted Pakistan, perhaps sensing their batsmen were low on confidence, but Awais Zia's debut had been eagerly awaited and he did not disappoint, playing with wanton aggression before he was undone by a slower ball from Steven Finn.
Zia has already been called "Young Boom Boom", and such is the reputation in Pakistan of the original "Boom Boom", Shahid Afridi, that accolades of that kind are not given lightly. The name might stick. He is a slim, lightly moustached 25-year-old and displayed a sharp eye and an appetite for swinging from the hip.
Pakistan need an injection of youthful ambition into their Twenty20 team, especially at a time when they need to proclaim they can renew despite being precluded from playing internationals at home because of fears of terrorist attacks.
Finn had looked all but unplayable in the ODI series, but Zia deposited the second ball he faced over midwicket and, in Finn's next over, top-edged a murderous pull for six. He will be loved for his freewheeling style. Finn, though, gave him a send-off - a tyro himself, transformed into a bit of a grump. Finn had a bad night, his four overs costing 39.
It was a late start in Dubai - 8pm, not too far short of the time when Graeme Swann begins to wonder where his cat is. He responded with his best T20I figures, 3 for 13 as his off-spin removed Hafeez, Afridi and Umar Akmal in the space of eight balls - and he began with the run out of Asad Shafiq for good measure.
It was left to the two old salts of a Pakistan side with only two players under 30 to organise a recovery from 73 for five. Misbah and Shoaib Malik staged a sixth-wicket partnership of 71 in 9.2 overs, only halted on the final ball of the innings when Shoaib fell to a brilliant diving catch in the deep by Jonathan Bairstow.
Swann, not one of the most natural athletes in the England side, has had a modest time in the field throughout England's stay in the UAE. Another blemish came when a slower ball from Dernbach should have accounted for Shafiq, but was dropped by Swann over his shoulder at mid-off.
Swann then ran out Shafiq , breaking the wicket with his elbows after the wicketkeeper, Craig Kieswetter, had gathered a loose ball sharply at short square leg. His mood lifted, he dismantled the Pakistan top order. Hafeez slog-swept to deep midwicket, then "Boom Boom Senior" fell for seven when he clipped Swann tamely to short midwicket. The most headstrong dismissal of all was that of Umar who was out before scoring as he planted his third ball into the hands of the diving Dernbach at long off.
Sixes in the hands of Zia smack of youthful confidence; when Misbah and Shoaib cleared the ropes it felt like needs-must, a calculated show of aggression once a full risk assessment had been carried out. Shoaib slugged Samit Patel over long-on, Misbah put him over long-off. Thanks to some magical bowling later in the night, they judged their requirements perfectly.
Edited by Alan Gardner
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