Pietersen seals England victory
Kevin Pietersen returned to form with a confident 52-ball 73 not out, as England's powerful new batting line-up capitalised on a spirited display from their bowlers - as well as some poor fielding from Pakistan - to ease along to a comfortable six-wicket victory with three balls to spare. After two rain-affected contests in Guyana, it was England's first victory of their World Twenty20 campaign and a vital one too, coming as it did against the reigning champions.
Chasing 148 for victory after winning the toss and choosing to bowl first, England were indebted to three incredible let-offs from Saeed Ajmal, who dropped Craig Kieswetter twice at mid-on and Michael Lumb once at mid-off, all inside the first five overs. The first reprieve, off the sixth ball of the innings, was the most culpable, as Kieswetter drove Razzaq into Ajmal's midriff, only for the ball to bobble free as he inexplicably attempted a shy at the non-striker's end.
Thereafter, the ball pursued Ajmal like a Guyanese mosquito, as England's openers muscled their way to an opening stand of 44 in 5.4 overs. Kieswetter's first boundary, in the third over, came courtesy of a chipped drive off Mohammad Aamer that would have been snaffled by a more athletically timed leap, while Lumb's let-off came just as England were stepping up the pace of their chase - 19 runs had been bashed off Mohammad Asif's second over, and Lumb had just made that 23 in seven balls with a clipped four through fine leg when Ajmal failed to gather a drive off a low full-toss from Aamer's very next delivery.
Ajmal did make partial amends for his butterfingers when he drew Lumb down the pitch with his fourth delivery to have him stumped for an aggressive 25 from 13 balls, while Kieswetter fell three overs later for 25 from 27, but not before he had bludgeoned Mohammad Hafeez for a massive six that took a chunk out of the Garry Sobers pavilion at midwicket. It was the safer hands of Umar Akmal that ended his stay, as he backpedalled on the long-on boundary to hold onto a lofted mow.
But Pakistan's dose of the dropsies didn't end there. Pietersen belted a drive into - and out of - Razzaq's hands as he steadied himself in his followthrough, and then creamed Ajmal to long-off where Aamer leapt with one hand but could only parry the chance over the rope for six. Pietersen, whose form has been hit-and-miss of late, didn't need a third invitation to cash in, and Shahid Afridi was whipped back over his head for a second six, to bring up a 37-ball half-century.
In the same over, Paul Collingwood - who had been the silent partner in a 60-run stand for the third wicket - picked out Umar on the long-off boundary to depart for 15 from 16 balls, but with 23 runs required from 24 balls, there was no late collapse on the cards. For once, Eoin Morgan failed to apply the finishing touch as Ajmal slipped an arm-ball through his defences, but Pietersen stood firm to deliver a vital victory.
In the final analysis, Pietersen's substantial performance proved to be the difference between the teams. With the sizeable exception of Shahid Afridi, who ran himself out first ball, most of their batsmen made starts - including Kamran Akmal, who swatted the first ball of the innings, from Ryan Sidebottom, over fine leg for six. But after an erratic display, their highest scorer turned out to be Salman Butt with 34 from 26 balls.
Pakistan had been handily placed on 44 for 1 after their six Powerplay overs, after England's seamers had adopted a bang-it-in approach on a lively Bridgetown surface, but thereafter it was over to the slower men, with the spin of Michael Yardy and Graeme Swann joining forces with Paul Collingwood's under-rated offcutters to stymie the flow of runs. Yardy leaked consecutive fours to Mohammad Hafeez as he struggled at first to find the right length, while Collingwood was belted for a massive six over midwicket by Butt, but the change of pace kept the run-rate in check, while serving up three vital wickets.
The first of those was Butt, who had been cruising along before he skimmed a flat drive off Swann to Collingwood in the covers. One over later, Umar survived a stumping as Kieswetter fumbled off Yardy, but England responded with two in two balls, as Hafeez slashed a shorter ball to short third man, before the main man, Afridi, dabbed his first ball into the covers, set off for a non-existent single, and didn't even try to regain his ground as Luke Wright lobbed the ball back to the keeper.
Misbah-ul-Haq flogged a Broad free hit into the stands for six before Yardy bowled him with a quicker ball as he telegraphed his intended reverse-sweep, and though Umar batted with purpose to make 30 from 25 balls, he was brilliantly snaffled on the boundary's edge by Pietersen, who sprinted back towards the rope from long-on to cling onto a steepling chance as the ball plummeted over his shoulder. Fawad Alam then snicked his third delivery, from Broad, through to the keeper, to leave Pakistan in some strife on 120 for 7 with 16 balls remaining.
Thanks to some sloppy late work in the field, and some ambitious biffing from the tail, Pakistan managed to hoist that total to a defendable 147 for 9, but once the catches started to go down, there was no way of reeling England back in.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo