Savage Razzaq sinks England
Abdul Razzaq led a brutal late assault to propel Pakistan to a thrilling victory over England in the second Twenty20 international in Dubai.
Set a challenging 149 to win the final game and secure a share of this brief series, Pakistan appeared to be floundering on 78 for five with seven overs remaining.
Razzaq, however, made light of a run-rate in excess of 10 an over by smashing an unbeaten 46 off just 18 balls.
In a wonderful display of clean hitting, he struck five sixes, including two off Ajmal Shahzad’s last over to seal Pakistan’s triumph - their first in 11 competitive matches - with six balls to spare.
It proved to be a chastening England debut for Shahzad, who claimed two wickets in his first over in international cricket yet leaked 17 in his fateful fourth, the 19th of the match.
As the statistics suggest, Razzaq’s innings was savage in the extreme, but that should not disguise the crispness of his strokeplay: three of his five maximums were gloriously straight blows, and he demonstrated immense composure in a situation that would have cowed many a player.
Razzaq’s barrage rendered Kevin Pietersen’s superb half-century redundant, while Graeme Swann can also feel aggrieved to finish on the losing side after a magnificent spell of 4-1-13-3 in the middle of the Pakistan innings.
Having played a supporting role to Eoin Morgan in yesterday’s seven-wicket win at the same venue, Pietersen hit an altogether more energetic 62 off 40 balls after England were asked to bat first today.
He provided the majority of the momentum in a total of 148 for six, to which Jonathan Trott contributed a measured 39, the pair adding 98 for the second wicket off 74 deliveries.
Although Luke Wright and Paul Collingwood swung to good effect late on, the loss of five wickets in the last four overs prevented England building on a commanding platform as well as they would have liked.
To their credit, Pakistan bowled with sufficient intelligence to keep England largely in check; Yasir Arafat was the pick of the attack with 3-32, and narrowly missed out on a hat-trick during a superb final over.
Joe Denly was England’s first casualty, bowled through the gate by Arafat as he advanced the track to drive. He has managed only 20 runs in his first five Twenty20 internationals.
Pietersen signalled his intention to dominate by punching Razzaq over mid-on for four and steering an Arafat bouncer at head height between backward point and short third man, but there was no more emphatic stroke than a glorious straight six off Saeed Ajmal which felled a spectator in the upper tier of the stand.
He even managed to clear short third man despite Shahid Afridi delivering the ball when he was not ready, while Trott managed to slog-sweep Ajmal over midwicket for one of only three fours in his 51-ball innings.
Pietersen was reprieved on 45 when he slapped Umar Gul ferociously to Afridi at cover, and went to his third Twenty20 fifty off 28 deliveries before hopping back in his crease and lofting the expensive Gul over long-off.
However, his desire to get back on strike saw Trott comfortably run out, and Pietersen’s innings came to an end when he was struck on the back leg attempting to sweep Ajmal in the next over.
Eoin Morgan, who managed one trademark six over midwicket, perished attempting a similar stroke off Gul, Collingwood and Wright traded leg-side sixes before the latter skied Arafat to mid-on, and Tim Bresnan located long-on with his first ball. Arafat was denied a hat-trick when Collingwood’s ugly heave landed just out of reach of deep square-leg.
As was the case yesterday, injudicious strokeplay proved the undoing of both Pakistan openers, Imran Nazir slicing Shahzad to third man and Imran Farhat hurried into a pull two balls later.
Although Shahzad was twice punished for dropping short by Umar Akmal, Swann’s introduction into the attack reaped immediate dividends, albeit courtesy of a leg-side wide.
It took a smart piece of work from wicketkeeper Matt Prior, and the eagle eye of third umpire Kumar Dharmasena, who spotted Shoaib Malik’s foot momentarily leave the ground, to end a third-wicket stand worth 36.
Arguably the most prized scalp arrived in the 11th over, when the dangerous Afridi - playing his first game after serving a two-match ban for biting the ball against Australia - holed out at deep midwicket off Swann.
When Akmal, who made 36 off 41 balls, swept Swann to Morgan on the square-leg boundary, England were firmly in the ascendancy, and they remained so - if only marginally - despite Razzaq hitting three of his first seven deliveries for six.
Fawad joined in the fun at the expense of Broad and Bresnan, only to pull the former to deep square-leg with 23 needed off three overs.
That had little bearing on Razzaq’s approach: he swatted a Shahzad slower ball back over his head to dent English hopes, and capped a marvellous display by repeating the feat later in the over courtesy of a wonderfully straight drive.
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