Who needs the Hundred? Certainly a packed and pulsating Old Trafford could not have been treated to any more thrills and spills than this as cricket’s grand old short format served up a dramatic win for England in their Twenty20 decider against Pakistan.
Eoin Morgan, who left himself out of the second match at Headingley on Sunday to give chances to his array of batting talents, came to his side’s rescue with a cool 21 from 12 balls, including two big sixes off Hasan Ali, just as Pakistan looked set to steal the spoils.
But he was indebted to England’s new star in Liam Livingstone who smashed the most important six of his career to date off his first ball before being caught off his second trying to end the match in the grand manner.
Jason Roy hit a quick-fire 64 as England won the deciding T20 against Pakistan in Manchester
England captain Eoin Morgan came to his side’s rescue with a cool 21 from 12 balls
David Willey and Chris Jordan somehow scrambled four runs in the final over as England won
Morgan fell with the finishing line in sight but David Willey and Chris Jordan somehow scrambled four runs in the final over as England won, not quite by the barest of margins but with some nervousness, with two balls to spare.
Morgan sprang a selection surprise when he denied Matt Parkinson his ‘dream’ of playing for England at his home ground, with the big boundaries and slow pitch that suit his leg-spin so well in domestic white-ball cricket.
Truth is, Parkinson has probably already done enough to be confident of featuring in that provisional squad for a World Cup where spin will be at a premium on the tired surfaces of the United Arab Emirates.
Roy departed after making his half century after he was caught off Usman Qadir
Jos Buttler made 21 before he fell to a catch in the deep from Babar Azam off Shadab Khan
But England were still spin heavy as they replicated the slow bowling policy that served them so well when they levelled this series at Headingley on Sunday.
At the centre of that was Rashid, at the peak of his powers as England’s most important T20 bowler and now, surprisingly, taking his first four-wicket short-form haul.
Morgan had trusted his senior leg-spinner with the sixth over of the innings and he repaid his captain by striking with his second ball when the best googly in world white-ball cricket did for Pakistan captain Babar Azam.
Rashid then struck twice in his second over to send back Sohaib Maqsood and Mohammad Hafeez and completed his best figures for England in a spell that included 10 dot balls when Shadab Khan holed out to Livingstone.
Jonny Bairstow then departed cheaply after Sohaib Maqsood held on to a catch
Veteran Mohammed Hafeez then bowled Moeen Ali for one as England stumbled in the chase
Livingstone was at the centre of the action again himself even before his brief but memorable innings with another demonstration of the versatility that sees him threatening right-handers with leg-spin and left-handers with off-spin.
He may not have taken a wicket but the Cumbrian, another Lancashire player thriving on his home ground, has timed his run perfectly to become undroppable from that World Cup squad and, almost certainly, the first-choice side.
But the most pleasing bowling display for England came in the form of Moeen Ali, who has clearly arrested the decline that threatened to see him drift away from the side.
Offspinner Hafeez then struck by bowling Dawid Malan with England still needing 12 runs
Hasan Ali failed to catch Morgan just moments before he had the England skipper dismissed
Moeen was the player of the match at Leeds and, imbued with the confidence that a contribution with both bat and ball in a winning cause can bring, he was superb in conceding just 19 runs from his four overs and the wicket of Fakhar Zaman.
Only opener Mohammad Rizwan held Pakistan together but he could face only 57 of the 120 balls delivered while he was at the crease in carrying his bat for 76.
A target of 155 is usually well within England’s reacvh but the fact Morgan unusually wanted to bat first emphasised that, on this pitch, it would be no routine chase.
Jos Buttler struggled for fluency, surprising since he returned to the side with a half century on Sunday and the only time he looked like his old self was when he switched to a left-handed stance and smashed Usman Qadir, son of the legendary Abdul, for four.
Jason Roy, in contrast, was in sublime touch for such a tired surface and rushed to 50 off just 30 balls, also switch hitting Qadir to the boundary in his first over.
In Pakistan’s innings, Adil Rashid took four wickets to help restrict Pakistan to 154 runs
Visiting wicketkeeper Mohammad Rizwan top scored for his side with an unbeaten 76
But when Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen all fell trying to hit over the top England were 112 for four after 15 overs and the game was very much on.
That is when it fell to Malan to try to take England over the line and prove yet again that he deserves his place in this jet-propelled T20 batting line-up.
Alongside him was the captain who seemed to take so long to warm to a batsman who is still ranked the best in the world in T20 cricket even though he seems to perennially be under pressure.
How Malan could have done with taking England home but just when it seemed the job was done and 12 were needed off nine balls he was bowled by Mohammad Hafeez for 31 off 33 balls, admittedly on a slow surface that does not suit him.
No matter. This was a memorable way for England to win yet another white-ball series, their last before they name World Cup squad in September. The Hundred has some act to follow.
Pakistan captain Azam made an uncharacteristic 11 before he was stumped off spinner Rashid
Moeen Ali was the only other England bowler to take a wicket in the deciding T20 match