An under experienced England overcame a strong Pakistan by 14 runs to take a 1-0 lead in the T20 series. Rather unexpectedly, England decided to leave out two of their key players in Joe Root and Jos Buttler, who had just returned to scintillating form. In came, James Vince, who was handed his T20 debut. Also selected was Sam Billings, who kept wickets in the match. Both the moves worked wonders for England. Vince made an impressive 41 while Billings played the knock that mattered, smashing a half-century off 24 balls.
Batting first, things did not begin smoothly for England, as they crumbled to 19 for 3 after four overs. At that stage, it seemed England would rue leaving out Root and Buttler. But, that wasn't to be the case. Vince and skipper Eoin Morgan added 76 for the fourth wicket in 10 overs, to bring England back in the game. With a platform ready, Billings plundered the ball all around. The Pakistan bowlers were punished mercilessly as England took close to 100 from the second set of 10 overs.
For a man making his debut, Vince displayed a sense of calm. He timed the ball well, and played some striking strokes. Vincent first pulled Wahab Riaz for four and then drove him through extra cover. He swept well too, dispatching Imran Khan for six over midwicket, and taking a four of Shahid Afridi in the fine leg region. Riaz had his revenge when he cleaned up Vince for 47. Pakistan were still very much in the game as Vince's dismissal left them at 95 for 4 in the 14th over. But, Morgan was joined by Billings, and the duo ensured England finished on a high.
Billings began his belligerent knock by scooping Sohail Tanvir over fine leg, and then smashed the next slower ball over midwicket. Imran Khan was punished for a six and two fours in consecutive balls as Billings blasted him through midwicket, square leg and mid-on. He proceeded to scoop Riaz over fine leg twice, one stroke producing a four, and the other a maximum. The Pakistan bowlers were rather clueless in the face of this brutal assault. Imran went for 42 in his spell, while Riaz and Afridi went for 33.
England's bowling reply was led by comeback man Liam Plunkett. The tall fast bowler claimed 3 for 21 to derail Pakistan's chase of 161. Mohammad Hafeez pulled one from Plunkett straight to the only fielder in the deep. Rafatullah Mohmand though was done in by Plunkett's sharp pace, and was caught behind. Reece Topley was again impressive claiming 3 for 24. He took the wicket of the dangerous Sarfraz Ahmed before coming back to clean the tail.
Running between the wickets again affected Pakistan. Umar Akmal and Sohaib Maqsood had added 32 in 21 balls when the former called for a quick single, but the latter did not respond. Both found themselves at the same end. The tail flourished for Pakistan, with the 9th wicket adding 45, but all that did was reduce the margin of defeat to a respectable 14-runs.
-- By A Cricket Correspondent