Pakistan seal thriller by 31 runs, despite Liam Livingstone's record 42-ball hundred
Babar, Rizwan add 150 for first wicket, before Shaheen Shah Afridi stars with three wickets
Pakistan 232 for 6 (Azam 85, Rizwan 63) beat England 201 (Livingstone 103, Afridi 3-30) by 31 runs
Liam Livingstone scored England's fastest T20I century in vain as Pakistan won a thrilling contest by 31 runs to go 1-0 up in their three-match series at Trent Bridge.
Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan guided Pakistan to their highest T20I total of 232 for 6 with a 150-run opening partnership, Pakistan'ssecond-highest for any wicket in this format.
It meant England had to better their highest T20I score while chasing and Livingstone did his utmost to try and get them there, his 42-ball hundred beating Dawid Malan's 48-ball century against New Zealand in 2019. But with his dismissal, they fell short, bowled out for 201. Livingstone struck nine sixes and six fours but, after Pakistan had reduced England to 48 for 3, their bowlers continued to take wickets at regular enough intervals to dent the hosts' run-rate, which had been superior for significant periods. Shaheen Shah Afridi was the pick of the bowlers with 3 for 30 off 3.2 overs and he was excellent in the field.
Pakistan didn't get off to a blazing start. On the contrary, by the end of the powerplay, they were 49 for 0 and it wasn't until the 12th over that they struck their first six. They went on to score 12 in all, equalling Pakistan's record against Bangladesh in 2007.
Rizwan was still scoring at a run a ball by the end of the eighth over but the 12th over - when he and Azam each struck sixes off Matt Parkinson in the space of three balls - signalled an acceleration. Pakistan ended up scoring 152 runs of the last 10 overs, their middle order maintaining the momentum even after Azam fell for a 49-ball 85 and Rizwan for 63 from 41.
Azam on a roll
His 158 had set Pakistan up to avoid being swept 3-0 in the ODI series before James Vince and Lewis Gregory trumped his effort, and Azam continued his fine form. He struck three consecutive fours off David Willey in the third over of the match, steering him through the covers before advancing down the pitch to send the ball over long-on and then flicking through midwicket with imperious timing. On the last ball of the over, he survived an England appeal for lbw and their subsequent review when he was given not out, replays showing the ball was missing leg stump.
Eoin Morgan brought Livingstone on in the ninth over, but it backfired when he conceded 11 runs, including back-to-back fours to Rizwan. The 12th over, bowled by Parkinson, went for 18, Azam cracking a shot over the midwicket boundary and Rizwan going flat and hard in the same direction. Azam went over the fence at long-on twice more, off Parkinson and Gregory, amid a total of eight fours. He finally fell swinging at a wide, full delivery from Willey which Jonny Bairstow took behind the stumps. Initially given not out, England's review was successful when UltraEdge revealed a clear spike for bat on ball.
Sohaib Maqsood contributed 19 runs off seven balls, Fakhar Zaman 26 off just eight - including three sixes off Saqib Mahmood in the 18th over - and Mohammad Hafeez 24 off 10 to keep Pakistan tracking in the right direction.
Catches, winning matches and all that
England were well ahead of the required run-rate at the end of the powerplay, having scored 20 more runs than Pakistan to that point, but wickets were the problem and some excellent fielding from the visiting side was responsible.
Afridi's gem of a return catch sent Malan packing for just 1, as he dived forward on his follow-through to grab the ball low to the ground. Imad Wasim's take to dismiss Bairstow, also off Afridi, was straightforward in comparison, but then came Haris Rauf's miraculous effort at cow corner to remove Moeen Ali. Having skied Mohammad Hasnain in that direction, Moeen could only watch as Rauf - and Maqsood - were lucky not to be injured as they both ran for the ball. Rauf ended up in Maqsood's lap as he leapt with two hands and both fell to the ground, Rauf crucially holding the ball to leave England wobbling on 48 for 3.
Livingstone lights it up
Jason Roy looked the man most likely to go big for England, racing to 32 off just 13 balls as wickets fell around him. But when Roy was out edging Shadab Khan to Azam at deep point, Livingstone stepped in. Playing just his sixth international T20, Livingstone raced to a half-century off just 17 balls, England's fastest fifty in T20Is.
His striking was immaculate and power immense as he pummelled nine sixes in all. Having seen Hasnain tip his leading edge off Rauf over the rope at third man, he then sent Rauf into the stands over deep square leg. Livingstone punished a couple of Shadab long-hops before punching him down the ground twice more. His drive into the stands at cow corner off Rauf took him to 97 off 41 and within reach of the England record. Livingstone's almighty drive over long-on off Shadab to bring up his hundred was to be his last. He skied the very next ball in the same direction but picked out Afridi on the boundary's edge. Needing 44 off the last three overs, the task proved too much for the England tail.
With Eoin Morgan having said that England would use this series to assess fringe players ahead of the T20 World Cup later this year, Livingstone showed there is nothing "fringe" about him.
Valkerie Baynes is a general editor at ESPNcricinfo