Kieswetter leads Lions home
Craig Kieswetter blasted an unbeaten 77 from just 52 balls as England Lions made a winning start to their three-match Twenty20 series with Pakistan A.
The Somerset wicketkeeper, playing as a specialist batsman, smashed eight fours and four sixes to help his side chase down their target of 157 with 14 balls remaining in Sharjah.
Ian Bell played his part too, contributing 48 off 44 balls during a third-wicket 115-run stand with Kieswetter after the Lions had lost two wickets in as many balls.
Earlier in the day, Pakistan bookended their innings with a string of fine shots to reach 156 for seven - a total which earlier seemed out of reach while Adil Rashid and James Tredwell were twirling away during the middle overs.
After Andrew Gale won the toss and elected to bat first, openers Mohammad Hafeez and Shahzaib Hasan set about the Lions new-ball attack of Chris Woakes and Steve Kirby.
Captain Hafeez set the early tone with a delightful punch through the covers while Hasan was less elegant in carving Kirby for three boundaries, the second of which flew desperately close to the diving Bell at point.
Sajid Mahmood, who bowled the fourth over after replacing Kirby, was handed the same vicious treatment as Pakistan raced to 39 without loss.
The Lions got a grip on the game in the next over when Hafeez sliced a drive off Woakes and was well caught by the running Peter Trego at third man.
Gale's men struck again in the next over, Mahmood's appeal upheld after he trapped Asad Shafiq on the crease.
The Lions reduced Pakistan to 55 for three in the eighth over when Umair Khan hoisted Rashid to Michael Lumb at deep midwicket.
Rashid and Tredwell rattled through the overs as Pakistan's run-rate began to slide - the Kent off-spinner particularly miserly without getting due reward.
Rashid picked up his second wicket in the 12th over when Aamir Sajjad was bowled around his legs as he attempted to sweep which left Pakistan 70 for four.
Pakistan's hopes of a decent score rested with opener Hasan, who had been at the other end while wickets collapsed around him. He signalled his intentions by swinging Rashid for six straight down the ground as Pakistan mounted a late charge.
Trego had immediate success when he was introduced in the 16th over, wicketkeeper Steven Davies taking a steepling catch after Kashif Siddique top-edged an attempted sweep.
Pakistan slipped further to 108 for six in the next over after a sensational piece of fielding by Kieswetter. Picking the ball up at mid-off, he threw down the stumps to dismiss Hasan for 57.
Trego struck again in the 18th over when Bell caught Wahab Riaz on the boundary, but there was still time for a sting in the tail.
From 114 for seven, Naeem Anjum and Tanveer Ahmed crashed 42 off the final 14 balls as England loosened their grip on the game.
In reply, the powerful Kieswetter and the more deft Davies made a fine start with both regularly finding the boundary.
Kieswetter gave a glimpse of what was to come when he pulled Ahmed for a huge six over midwicket as the openers rattled along to 34 after three overs.
England then suffered a double setback at the start of the next over with both Davies and Lumb bowled by successive Riaz deliveries.
New batsman Bell provided a calm head following those two dismissals and, along with Kieswetter, kept the Lions on track.
Kieswetter upped the ante in the 12th over with a mighty blow straight down the ground which landed in the players' area, nearly decapitating the watching James Taylor in the process.
Bell matched that in the next over with a pull off Ahmed that cleared the rope, but Kieswetter went one better in the 14th with a six that landed in the tier above the changing rooms.
The match was settled in the 17th over when the pair traded more boundaries with Kieswetter showing some guile with a deft paddle.
Bell perished two short of 50 but victory arrived three balls later.