Kevin Pietersen produced arguably his most composed innings since his return from Achilles surgery, while Eoin Morgan continued the improvisatory form as Pakistan were overwhelmed by an unbeaten 112-run partnership
Kevin Pietersen produced arguably his most composed innings since his return from Achilles surgery, while Eoin Morgan continued the improvisatory form that has made him an instant veteran of England's limited-overs squads, as Pakistan were overwhelmed by an unbeaten 112-run partnership in the first Twenty20 in Dubai.
The stand was England's highest for any wicket in Twenty20s, and fittingly it was Morgan who sealed the match with a six - a monstrous hoist over deep backward square - as England rattled to victory with nine balls to spare. It was an impressive way to bounce back after the disappointment of losing to the England Lions in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, and the victory was on the cards from the moment that Pakistan were restricted to 129 for 8 despite winning the toss and batting first.
England being England, they made heavy weather of their run-chase at first, slumping to 18 for 3 in 4.2 overs before Pietersen and Morgan turned the tide to impressive effect. Jonathan Trott and Joe Denly strode out to form their country's 15th opening partnership in 24 Twenty20 matches, but between them they mustered five runs from 13 balls.
Denly, whose first two appearances in the format had both resulted in first-ball ducks, this time made it to his third delivery before spooning a high-elbowed drive to mid-on for 1, shortly before Trott was cramped for room by Abdul Razzaq and bowled off an inside-edge for 4. When Paul Collingwood followed 10 balls later, run out for a duck as he dived in vain after taking on a second run to deep midwicket, England were in all sorts of trouble.
But following a chastening tour of South Africa, Pietersen was arguably the most motivated man in the stadium, and with Morgan deflecting all the pressure by steaming along in his own ultra-confident bubble, he set about launching a personal quest for redemption.
A nine-ball over from Shoaib Malik gave Pietersen the leg-up he needed in his innings, as he swept powerfully through fine leg for his second four of the innings, and though the ever-impressive Umar Gul maintained a disciplined approach to keep England's momentum in check, Morgan sashayed superbly inside the line of the last ball of his second over, to hoist an effortless six over the head of fine leg.
Pietersen responded with a flick through midwicket as he advanced down the track in Malik's next over, but it was Morgan who really turned the tide of the contest with three fours in four balls from Razzaq - all from sweetly timed leg-side strokes - as the required rate plummeted from 52 in 42 balls, to 38 in 36.
From that point onwards, there was no stopping England - especially Morgan, whose only blemish came in the undignified manner in which he reached his half-century ( from 43 balls) with a sprawled dive for the crease. Gul, who is so often unplayable in this format, was creamed for five fours and a six from his last eight balls of the match, including 14 runs in three deliveries as the match was sealed at a canter.
It simply wasn't Pakistan's night. On a pitch that offered a touch of unsettling bounce, they faltered from the start of their innings, with Imran Nazir produced a fretful 2 from 15 balls before top-edging a loose pull to Denly at deep square-leg. At the other end, his opening partner, Imran Farhat, squandered a promising start with a wasteful run-out, as Pietersen swooped at mid-off to ping down the stumps at the non-striker's end with a sharp under-arm shy.
After the six Powerplay overs, Pakistan had limped along to 25 for 2, their slowest start in any Twenty20 match, and their predicament soon worsened when Khalid Latif snicked Luke Wright's third delivery through to the keeper, Matt Prior. One over later, Umar Akmal joined the procession as Graeme Swann - a man with a penchant for striking early in a spell - found some extra bounce with his third delivery, and Broad at backward point leapt impressively to his left to cling onto a top-edged cut.
Malik and Fawad Alam did their best to regroup in a 47-run stand for the fifth wicket, the highlight of which was Fawad's effortless flick off Collingwood to notch up the first six of the match in the 13th over. But just when their stand was beginning to look imposing, Swann returned for his second over of the match, and Malik obliged by clipping nonchalantly to midwicket.
Razzaq picked up the momentum by bludgeoning a Broad long-hop into the midwicket boundary boards for six, but England's bowlers held their nerves impressively as the closing overs loomed. On 12, Razzaq was dropped by Morgan on the midwicket boundary, but four balls later, Fawad's cameo came to an end for a run-a-ball 23, as Broad banged in a bouncer and Prior gathered a wafer-thin top-edge behind the stumps.
Pakistan tried to accelerate in the closing overs, but continued to lose wickets as Bresnan claimed Sarfraz Ahmed then the dangerous Razzaq, with a cunning slower-ball bouncer, to quell any late charge and England believed their target was attainable. Despite a dodgy start, it proved to be well within their capabilities.