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More fireworks in the offing as Pakistan, England bid to win T20 series

MANCHESTER: Both England and Pakistan have played a very entertaining brand of cricket in the first two games of their Twenty20 International series and much of the same can be expected in the decider at Old Trafford in Manchester on Tuesday.

The hosts managed to a make a brilliant comeback in the second game at Headingley, winning by 45 runs, on Sunday and will hope they can carry the momentum going into the final game. With abundance of resources on the bench and their tendency to make changes to the XI, England might look to test a few more fringe players ahead of the ICC Twenty20 World Cup in the United Arab Emirates later this year.

Pakistan skipper Babar Azam will be looking for an improved performance, especially from his bowlers who have leaked 200 or more runs in both the games so far. Though Babar and his opening partner Mohammad Rizwan have been at the top of their form, the collapse under the pressure of a chase might force the skipper to ponder over making a couple of changes in both departments for the decider.

England’s comeback in game two was praiseworthy. Put in to bat, they lost Jason Roy and Dawid Malan within the first three overs. But Jos Butter — captaining the side in Eoin Morgan’s absence — played a responsible innings of 59 while Moeen Ali and Liam Livingstone took the attack to the bowlers.

Scalping Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Livingstone in consecutive overs helped Pakistan put a leash on scoring but the tail did enough to take the total to 200.

Babar and Rizwan started the chase very well, putting together 50 for the first wicket within the Powerplay but once rising fast bowler Saqib Mahmood dismissed the captain, Pakistan found it very difficult to recover. The visitors went from 50-0 to 105-6 as Rashid Khan, Moeen Ali and Mark Parkinson spun a web around the visiting batters.

Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan did get among the runs but all it did was delay the inevitable as they only managed to reach 155-9 by the end.

All-rounder Moeen, who was declared player-of-the-match for his all-round exploits that saw him score a 16-ball 36 and return figures of 2-32, observed: “Getting an opportunity up the order is fantastic, and bowling a few overs was great. Brilliant team performance, so many other guys could have been player-of-the-match. I’m happy to float, when you bat up the order you can get going in the Powerplay and play your shots. Great for the series and going into Old Trafford it’ll be a fantastic game.”

Pakistan, on the other hand, desperately need a victory for a couple of reasons. Losing both white-ball series will sow seeds of uncertainty in the minds of their team management, which is not an ideal way to build up towards a World Cup. Also, if Pakistan do win the final fixture of their England tour before they leave for the West Indies, they will rise to third in the ICC rankings.

Babar’s men are currently in fourth spot on 262 ranking points, just one behind New Zealand. If they win, Pakistan will leapfrog the Black Caps to third position with 264 points. England are on top of the table with India right behind.

The visitors will have to make some tough decisions. Fast bowler Haris Rauf went for 44 and 48 runs in the two T20s, and they can’t afford another expensive outing from a front-line quick. Fellow pacer Mohammad Hasnain leaked 51 runs last time out but his figures of 1-28 in the high-scoring first match were excellent, which should keep his spot safe.

“We gave away 30 extra runs and we weren’t able to maintain the momentum that we got with the opening partnership,” Babar lamented after defeat on Sunday. “We had confidence in chasing, and my wicket was crucial because we lost momentum with that wicket. We’ll try not to repeat the mistakes in the next game, which we want to win — and the series.”

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