Gul and Swann soar but Pakistan win
An inspired spell from Umar Gul helped Pakistan narrowly beat England by eight runs in the opening Twenty20 international at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
After opening batsman Kevin Pietersen struck an explosive 33, in-form Ravi Bopara continued his good form to leave England requiring 33 from 25 balls with six wickets remaining.
But the return of Gul, who claimed 3-18 from four overs, swung the game back in Pakistan’s favour with the wickets of Bopara for 39 from 32 deliveries, Jos Buttler and Samit Patel in quick succession.
The tourists needed 22 from 12 balls with Jonny Bairstow and Graeme Swann at the crease, but wicketless Saeed Ajmal used his variations to concede just four off the penultimate set of six.
And Junaid Khan executed a fine array of full-pitched deliveries in the final over to seal the designated hosts’ first triumph in five limited-overs matches and put them 1-0 ahead in the three-match series.
Swann had given England hope with a run-out and T20-best figures of 3-13 from four overs, including a double-wicket maiden, to leave Pakistan struggling at 73 for five in the 11th.
The off-spinner, who dropped Asad Shafiq, eventually ran him out - via Craig Kieswetter’s pinpoint throw - before dismissing Mohammad Hafeez, Shahid Afridi and Umar Akmal all in quick succession.
But an impressive sixth-wicket partnership of 77 from skipper Misbah-ul-Haq and Shoaib Malik, who made a run-a-ball 26 and 39 from 33 respectively, ensured Pakistan reached a slightly above par score of 144 for six.
Once Stuart Broad won the toss, debutant Awais Zia showed no signs of nerves as he made an explosive start to his international career. The left-hander struck the first ball he faced over the top of cover for two before following it up with a thrash over mid-off for four.
Hafeez went after Jade Dernbach, hitting consecutive boundaries to end the second over, before the attacking Zia hooked a sharp Steven Finn bouncer for six over fine-leg.
However, Zia’s aggressive play proved to be his downfall in the third over with the score on 32. He looked to hit Finn over the top once again, but was deceived by a slower delivery and could only loop the ball into the hands of Broad at mid-off for 18.
Number three Shafiq was given a life on nine. Swann, running back from mid-off, failed to take a comfortable catch over his shoulder after the right-hander had looked to clear the ropes off Dernbach.
Swann leaked eight from his first over, before turning the game on its head with four wickets in the space of three.
Firstly, a mix-up between the Pakistan batsmen allowed Kieswetter to throw the ball to Swann who, despite losing track of the stumps, managed to clip the bails off before Shafiq returned home.
And two balls later, Hafeez, who compiled 23, carelessly slog-swept the off-spinner down the throat of Bairstow, playing his first match of the tour of United Arab Emirates, on the deep midwicket boundary as Pakistan slipped to 65 for three in the ninth over.
Nottinghamshire’s Swann continued to excel, claiming the wickets of two Pakistan key players in four deliveries to leave England in charge.
Afridi, whose only boundary came courtesy of an edge through the slips off Broad, chipped to Eoin Morgan at short mid-on before Umar erratically lofted the ball to Dernbach, who rushed in from the long-off boundary to take an impressive diving catch.
Misbah and Malik brought stability to Pakistan’s innings, hitting a maximum each in the process, the former clearing the ropes despite the best efforts of Swann, who could not quite claw the ball back into play on the long-off boundary.
Malik struck three of his quartet of fours in the final two overs, but departed on the final ball of the innings as a fantastic diving catch from Bairstow in the deep provided Dernbach with his sole victim.
Pietersen carried on his good touch, which saw him strike consecutive hundreds during England’s 4-0 whitewash of Pakistan in the one-day internationals, by comfortably taking 13 from Junaid’s opening over, and Kieswetter was grateful to Misbah for parrying a difficult chance at cover.
The Pakistan captain then turned to his spin trio of Ajmal, Afridi and Hafeez and got instant rewards.
Pietersen struck Afridi over his head for his sole maximum, but was not so lucky next ball when he was caught narrowly inside the midwicket ropes by Shafiq.
Hafeez removed Kieswetter in his first over, the wicketkeeper-batsman manoeuvred too far into the leg side and missed a straight one that clipped leg stump as England slipped to 51 for two after seven overs.
Just as Morgan looked to be getting in his stride, his 16-ball innings was cut short in the 13th over by a full Hafeez ball that he failed to connect with.
Bopara survived a run-out shout before hitting Junaid over his head for a maximum and nudging a well-ran two into the leg side to bring up the England 100 inside 14 overs.
However, Gul provided another twist in the tale with his trio of scalps. The in-form Essex right-hander succumbed to a full delivery after shuffling across too far, leaving his leg stump exposed.
Then Jos Buttler tried to flick him over short fine-leg, only to loop a catch to Hafeez, and, with his next ball, he trapped Samit Patel leg before to leave Pakistan favourites.
Gul’s heroics had left England with too much to do in the final two overs, with Ajmal using his variations to deceive a swinging Swann. Bairstow finished unbeaten on 22 as Junaid completed the innings with six excellent deliveries that England could only muster nine from.