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SA v BAN (W) (1)
Abu Dhabi T10 (3)
BAN v NZ (1)
SA v WI (A tour) (1)
BBL 2023 (1)
AUS v PAK (1)
Asia Cup [U19] (2)
Match Analysis

Gratitude the overriding emotion after series of ebb and flow

England were worthy winners, both teams got useful World Cup prep - but most important was that this tour took place at all

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
The England players pose with the series trophy  •  AFP/Getty Images

The England players pose with the series trophy  •  AFP/Getty Images

A memorable tour did not get the finale it deserved. England had blown hot and cold across their first six T20 internationals against Pakistan but were dominant in the seventh. They posted 209 for 3 after being inserted on a used pitch, Dawid Malan and Harry Brook adding an unbroken 108 in 10.1 overs for the fifth wicket.
By the time Mohammad Hasnain miscued David Willey over cover for 2, the stands were nearly empty. Any semblance of tension about the result dissipated when Babar Azam (chipping a slower ball to short cover) and Mohammad Rizwan (cleaned up by an inswinger) were dismissed inside the first eight balls of the chase.
As England's players stood on the outfield waiting to lift the trophy, there was time for them to reflect on this historic tour, their first to Pakistan since 2005. Of course, they should have been here last year for a 96-hour whistlestop on the way to the T20 World Cup and their last-minute pull-out was unseemly and ill-judged.
But in hindsight, this tour has been the fully-fledged return that Pakistan deserved. The two additional games added as a result of England's withdrawal have given the series the chance to ebb and flow: plans have been formulated, thrown off and adapted, narratives have developed, and the volatility of these sides and the format has made each game feel fresh. It has been the perfect prelude to December's Test series.
The message has been clear throughout: Pakistan is open for business again. The presidential-level security has been jarring for the players at times but ensured that the series passed without a hitch, and half of England's squad were simply returning to familiar surroundings. "I almost feel like I'm at home here," Brook said.
England's players have made a point of highlighting the hospitality they have received since they arrived in Pakistan two-and-a-half weeks ago but that has extended onto the pitch in the last two games of this series. On Friday night, their hosts had the generosity to rest Mohammad Rizwan and Haris Rauf, setting up a decider; on Sunday, they put down three straightforward catches and were sloppy in the field.
It has been clear for some time that the relentless international schedule - caused by the backlog of fixtures that has built up during the Covid era, and boards' insistence on rearranging series rather than cancelling them - is unsustainable but Pakistan's travel plans after the series finale confirmed it.
They were due to travel straight to the airport after the conclusion of the seventh T20I without even returning to the team hotel, and fly to New Zealand at 2am ahead of a tri-series which also features Bangladesh. No wonder they seemed distracted, first in the field and then with the bat.
But this series has also demonstrated why boards are so keen to cram games in, even to the extent of seven in 13 days. Both sides have missed key players but the standard has been high and the cricket compelling, reaching its pinnacle in the fourth game of the series while Rauf was reverse-swinging the old ball at 96mph/155kph to close out an unlikely win.
A seven-match T20I series had the potential to drag, not least with both teams focused on World Cup preparation, but the tour has felt like an event in its own right, helped by sellout crowds in both Karachi and Lahore and by two sides who are strong, but flawed in their own different ways.
England were probably worthy winners, and needed the result more than Pakistan: this was their first T20I series win since July 2021, their first white-ball series win since Eoin Morgan's retirement and their first series win against a Full Member since Matthew Mott took over as head coach.
They will ramp up preparations next week, playing the first of three games against Australia in Perth on Sunday as they build towards their World Cup opener against Afghanistan on October 22. With Jos Buttler, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone and Ben Stokes to come back in, this was an impressive effort.
But the most important thing has been the fact that the tour happened in the first place: when England last played an 'away' series against Pakistan, seven years ago in the UAE, it seemed unthinkable that their next one would be in Pakistan.
"It's been amazing to be back here and playing cricket here once again after 17 years," Moeen Ali, who has captained throughout with Buttler recovering from injury, said. "Even before the cricket started, it was a big thing for us to come here. It's a privilege to be here and play cricket once again.
"The hospitality is one of the best in the world. The people look after you so well here and they're so nice to you. We've been looked after extremely well. We've really enjoyed being here after such a long time. It's been outstanding."
They have played in front of passionate, partisan crowds throughout and have played a small part in bringing some joy to a country that has suffered more than most. "It's been a bit more than just a cricket trip, this," Mott added. "The people of Pakistan have done it really tough and they've embraced our team really well. We've enjoyed every moment."
Pakistan fans have proudly displayed signs and banners throughout this series and one bore a simple message at Gaddafi Stadium on Sunday night: "We Will Miss You England." This time, they won't have to wait long.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98