"Please, sir, I want some more." Perhaps few people thought we'd still have a healthy appetite after five matches of the series - the first of this length between two Full Members
- but here we are, holding out our bowl for another serving of what has been a rip-roaring contest. Tall run chases, low-scoring scraps, last-over finishes, we've pretty much had the lot, with Pakistan wrestling their way to a 3-2 lead after the first match of the Lahore leg on Wednesday night.
England might feel somewhat bewildered to find themselves trailing for the first time since coasting to a six-wicket victory in Karachi nine days ago. They have often seemed to be the team in control, only for games to be whipped from their grasp in dizzying, uber-Pakistani style. The twist in Lahore was that spin, rather than pace, helped pull the rug from under them, as a period of stodgy middle-overs accumulation against Shadab Khan and Iftikhar Ahmed left Moeen Ali too much catching up to do at the back end.
Such a tense finale, with the debutant allrounder Aamer Jamal keeping a grip on his bottle - despite the evening dew - to close out victory from the final ball, had not seemed likely at halfway when the hosts had been bowled out with an over to spare. But what seemed a straightforward chase of 146 lurched into trouble during the powerplay, with openers Phil Salt and Alex Hales continuing to struggle for form.
Shadab's return was a fillip for Pakistan, the legspinner immediately providing greater control than the man he replaced, Usman Qadir. But England might reflect that part-timer Iftikhar was allowed to burgle an analysis of 4-0-16-1 - albeit he was used cannily as a match-up for England's left-handers.
The fact that Pakistan had only managed one individual score in excess of 15 mattered little, particularly when that one man was Mohammad Rizwan. Fighting the stereotypes
as well as the conditions, Rizwan chalked up his fourth half-century in five innings and ensured that a bowling attack that is always happy to accept the odds of defending a par total had something to work with.
An underwhelming display from the rest of Pakistan's top order won't help their planning in the long run, however, and there might be some disquiet at Babar Azam being bounced out cheaply for the second time in successive encounters with Mark Wood. Nevertheless, Babar is still the second leading-scorer on either side, and may get a night off from Wood's 150kph/93mph crowd-silencers as England seek to preserve him for the upcoming World Cup.
And while that tournament, to be held in Australia, will be played in significantly different conditions, both of these talented-but-mercurial (yes, we've said it) teams can only benefit in their preparations from a couple more rounds of high-energy jousting. If we can ask for one more thing, it would be another tug on the rope and a series decider for game seven.
Pakistan: WWLWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
On paper, Shan Masood
has had a pretty decent start to his T20I career, averaging 33.33 with a strike rate of 135.13 from four innings. However, almost two thirds of his runs - an unbeaten 65 from 40 balls - came in a long lost cause in the third T20I, and his eagerness to impress has resulted in some awkward dismissals, none more so than the leading edge to gully while attempting a ramp against David Willey. Masood batted at No. 4 in the recently completed National T20 Cup, presumably to expand his utility for Pakistan, but he might not have too many more chances to prove he is anything more than a back-up opener.
For much of 2020 and 2021, Dawid Malan
was the ICC's No. 1-ranked T20I batter - although that didn't prevent some from wondering whether his style of accumulation first, acceleration later was at odds with England's all-guns-blazing approach. He showcased a more aggressive approach during the Hundred, where he opened for champions Trent Rockets and finished as the leading run-scorer while striking at a quicker rate than Salt, Hales and Jos Buttler, but has yet to click back at No. 3 for England and was lbw to Iftikhar at a pivotal moment in Wednesday's chase. Australian conditions should be more to his liking but a significant contribution would be welcome before he boards the plane.
Pitch and conditions
Two strips had been prepared at the Gaddafi Stadium and it seems likely Friday's game will be played on the fresh one. The evidence of the fifth T20I suggested that run-scoring will be much harder work than on the lightning decks of Karachi. Rain shouldn't be a problem, but the players can expect another hot and humid night.
Rizwan didn't take the field during England's chase after being hit on the back by a stray throw, with Mohammad Haris deputising behind the stumps, and Pakistan might
take the opportunity to rest their prolific opener. Or they might not. Haris Rauf could also be due a break, with Mohammad Hasnain and Shahnawaz Dahani options to come in, but Naseem Shah won't be involved. Naseem has been discharged from hospital after being diagnosed with pneumonia but has since tested positive for Covid-19
Pakistan (probable): 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan/Mohammad Haris (wk), 3 Shan Masood, 4 Haider Ali, 5 Iftikhar Ahmed, 6 Asif Ali, 7 Mohammad Nawaz, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Aamer Jamal, 10 Haris Rauf/Mohammad Hasnain, 11 Mohammad Wasim
Buttler seems unlikely to be risked as he continues to rehab from a calf strain, despite saying on Wednesday he could "play tomorrow" if it was a World Cup game. England could look to add to their spin options by bringing back Liam Dawson, and there are likely to be changes to the seam attack with management wary of putting Wood and Chris Woakes through back-to-back games.
England (probable): 1 Phil Salt (wk), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Ben Duckett, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali (capt), 7 Sam Curran, 8 David Willey/Liam Dawson, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Olly Stone, 11 Richard Gleeson
Stats and trivia Moeen is 67 short of becoming the eighth Englishman to 1000 in T20Is.
"I spoke to Moeen bhai and told him the pitch looked great to me, so I don't know why it was a low-scoring game. There was a lot of dew so it should have been a high-scoring game. The pitch looked great to bat on, but I don't understand why the game panned out like it did."
Shadab Khan wasn't expecting to be so successful the other night
"No. You play so much cricket that everybody gets out to short balls at times. It's not like just because it's Pakistani players, we're bowling short. It's not because it's Babar Azam or anyone like that, he's just got out a couple of times. It's just that when you have somebody like Mark Wood, you have to use that short ball."
Moeen Ali plays down the idea Pakistan have a bouncer problem
Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick