Pakistan A 146 for 6 (Sharjeel 70, Finn 3-22) beat England Lions 142 for 6 (Dawson 45*, Malan 35) by four wickets
Steven Finn enhanced his prospects of a belated call-up to England's Test tour of South Africa with a hostile three-wicket comeback performance for England Lions in Dubai, but his efforts were trumped by the Pakistan A opener Sharjeel Khan, whose 70 from 50 balls set his side up for a tense four-wicket victory and a 2-1 lead in the five-match series.
Finn, who was withdrawn from the recent Test series against Pakistan due to a stress-related injury in his foot, showed plenty hostility and no signs of discomfort to claim figures of 3 for 22 in four overs, including two wickets in two balls in the second over of his spell.
"It just felt nice to be playing again, and I'm very happy with how it went," Finn said. "Bowling in the nets can't give you that competitive edge you get in a match. I really enjoyed being back out there. It's definitely a good starting block."
Defending a target of 143 after another promising start from Dawid Malan and a strong finish from Liam Dawson, Finn found his range in conceding two runs from his opening over before a change-up in pace confounded Sohaib Maqsood, who was bowled round his legs for 3. One ball later, Mohammad Nawaz had no response to a perfect outswinger that curled off his edge and into the gloves of Sam Billings behind the stumps.
It was a statement of intent from a bowler whom Alastair Cook, in his departure press conference at Heathrow on Thursday, had admitted was ahead of schedule in his comeback from injury, having spent most of the last month with his left foot in a moon boot. "Steven has made big strides over the last couple of weeks," Cook said. "That's really encouraging for him." On this evidence, he can probably start making plans for a Cape Town New Year.
However, Finn's figures were dented in his third over by Sharjeel, who pulled a four then smeared a six to kick-start his own innings and Pakistan's run-chase. He galloped along to a 30-ball half-century, with six fours and a six, adding 52 for the third wicket with Iftikhar Ahmed, who played a willing second-fiddle with 15 from 19 balls before flapping a short ball from Jamie Overton to midwicket.
Their stand had given Pakistan command of the contest but, at 92 for 3, Finn returned in the 14th over to complete his spell. Sure enough, with his second ball, he beat Babar Azam for pace as Dawson at midwicket collected a top-edged pull.
Sharjeel, however, responded immediately with a four through an unguarded fine leg and, one over later, the new batsman, Saad Nasim, lifted Tom Westley over fine leg for six to restore Pakistan's ascendancy. England's death bowlers battled valiantly to keep their side in the game but Nasim added two more sixes, including one in the final over off Reece Topley, to all but seal the victory with 33 from 21 balls.
Nasim was denied the winning shot when Topley completed a caught-and-bowled with two runs needed for victory, but Saifullah Bangash walloped four to seal the result with two balls to spare.
After winning the toss and batting first, England's innings failed to ignite despite a handful of promising cameos at the top of the order. For the third match running, Malan provided the early impetus, making 35 from 29 balls with three fours and a six over long-on off the spin of Bilal Asif.
But at the other end, James Vince fell in the second over, well caught by the diving keeper, Bangash, off Mir Hamza for 6, and though Westley came out swinging with three fours in the space of four balls, he fell in search of his fourth, a miscued pull off Rumman Raees that picked out deep fine leg for 13.
Billings was unable to get going in his run-a-ball 15. Although he top-edged his fifth ball, off Raees, over fine leg for six, he then added six more singles in the space of his next ten balls before mowing across the line at Asif and holing out to Ifhikhar at long-on.
Malan and Ross Whiteley then fell in the space of six balls to a pair of expertly judged catches - first Azam flung himself full-length at midwicket to intercept Malan's flat pull before Junaid Khan leapt in the covers to send Whiteley on his way for a third-ball duck, as England slipped to a precarious 76 for 5 in the 12th over.
However, Dawson marshalled his side's recovery with 45 not out from 37 balls, including a final-ball six over fine leg as Junaid strayed on to his pads. He added a restorative 54 runs for the sixth wicket with Ben Foakes, whose 16 from 18 balls ended when he inside-edged Raees on to his stumps, then farmed the strike well with Jamie Overton to give his bowlers a total to defend. Despite Finn's best efforts, it wasn't quite enough.