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Babar Azam 110*, Mohammad Rizwan 88* as Pakistan cruise to ten-wicket win


Pakistan 203 for 0 (Babar 110*, Rizwan 88*) beat England 199 for 5 (Moeen 55*, Rauf 2-30) by ten wickets

A world record unbeaten 203-run partnership that was devastating in its brutality and yet delectable in its beauty saw Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam chase down 200 against England with three balls to spare, and without the loss of a single wicket. Babar scored his second T20I hundred, taking 62 balls to get there, while Rizwan’s unbeaten 51-ball 88 was a more than adequate supporting act.

The wicket seemed to play especially slow in the first innings, so the 199 England put up looked well above par at the time. That came thanks to two contrasting innings from the England middle order, with Ben Duckett‘s pragmatic shot-making setting a platform, before Moeen Ali‘s furious elegance saw him caress an undefeated 55 off 23. Given Babar had said at the toss 160 would be the upper limit of what Pakistan wanted to chase, England looked invulnerable.

But for all of Pakistan’s strike rate issues up the order, there has never been any evidence Babar and Rizwan aren’t at their best when chasing a total, no matter what that total might be. They did, after all, gun down 204 against South Africa in April 2021 with a 197-run partnership, and they were more than up for the relentlessly attacking cricket they would have to subject England’s bowling to. Fifty-nine came off the powerplay, and the openers simply continued in the same vein as the visitors ran out of ideas. Alex Hales grassing Rizwan in the powerplay was a sliding doors moment, as a virtually chanceless opening pairing timed the chase to perfection to seal a stunning 10-wicket win.

The devastating duo
There’s really little point talking about much else. England have the better power hitters, the better middle order, and significantly more batting weapons in their arsenal, and don’t Babar and Rizwan know it. These two put together a solid opening stand in the first game, only to see their team-mates crumble under pressure, and so it appeared they recognised solid wasn’t going to cut it. They might have to do it all themselves.

A couple of boundaries either side of square from Rizwan in the first over set the tone. Rizwan led the charge early on as the captain took his time bedding in, though a couple of clobbered boundaries off Sam Curran suggested Babar, too, was beginning to whirr back into form. With the pace bowlers seen to, Moeen turned to Liam Dawson’s spin, but 13 runs off the sixth over suggested Pakistan would allow the visitors no hiding place.

A brief quiet spell following the powerplay saw the asking ate creep up, but when Moeen put himself on in the 13th over, the tide turned decisively. Twenty-one from the over, including three muscled sixes, put the openers in a zone few others in world cricket can reach. From thereon, they were unstoppable, England’s bowlers no impediment in the inexorable march to the target. A flurry of boundaries followed and by the time Babar brought up his century, the victory was almost a formality. It was, fittingly, a cover drive that sealed the win, a signature shot from a man who showed an ephemeral dip in form was little more than that.

Duckett and Moeen’s contrasting styles
It would be hard to imagine what kind of surface you’d need to produce to ensure both Moeen and Duckett might excel, but this Karachi strip appears to be one of them. A slow surface made it difficult to play down the ground, and so Duckett resorted to playing the paddle and reverse sweep almost exclusively to great effect. A quickfire 50-run stand with Phil Salt allowed England to edge ahead, and by the time Duckett was cleaned up by Mohammad Nawaz, he had scored what looked an extremely handy 22-ball 43 in an innings where England otherwise struggled.

But Moeen took over the reigns thereafter, punishing every error in line and length – of which there were plenty on an off-colour day for Pakistan’s bowlers – making a mockery of the idea this pitch might not be suitable to conventional shot-making. He didn’t discriminate between spin and pace, Usman Qadir and Mohammad Hasnain both seeing the final two deliveries of their last overs sent sailing over the ropes. It was a breathtaking mix of timing, power and beauty, an all-round treat for the eyes that looked, at that time, as if it might be the point of difference.

Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000



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