England held Pakistan to 158-7 despite a strong early partnership from Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam; Alex Hales and undefeated Harry Brook lead England to victory; Watch the second T20I between Pakistan and England live on Sky Sports Cricket at 3pm on Thursday
Alex Hales scored a half-century on his return to international cricket as England scored their first match in Pakistan for 17 years with a six-wicket T20 victory over the hosts.
With Karachi hosting England’s first match in Pakistan since 2005, an excellent early partnership between Mohammad Rizwan (68) and captain Babar Azam (31) thrilled the home crowd, before England responded through Adil Rashid (2 -27) and debutant Luke Wood (3-24) to limit them to 158-7.
England then got off to a good start in their run chase as Hales (53) anchored the innings, but Pakistan’s regular wickets ensured the game was kept tense until Harry Brook (42 not out) produced an exciting cameo to see tourists home with four balls to spare. .
The victory gives England an early lead in the seven-match series as they look to find form ahead of the start of the T20 World Cup in Australia next month.
The return of Hales, who had not played international cricket for three years after being exiled due to off-field problems, added another alternative look at an England team developing a new profile under head coach Matthew Mott and captain Jos Buttler, who were appointed over the summer.
Moeen Ali captained England in the absence of Buttler, who is expected to return from a calf injury later in the series, with several other notable names including Test captain Ben Stokes staying home to rest. before the World Cup.
“I thought we were outstanding at all times,” Moeen said.
“They got off to a great start. We got the game back really well in the middle period, and in the death in particular, we were fantastic, and a lot of praise for the bowlers because they really set the game up for our batsmen.”
“On a difficult surface, I think we played very, very well. We chased and timed perfectly.”
England’s long-awaited return to Pakistan was delayed when last year’s planned tour was canceled at short notice due to security concerns, but with two additional T20Is added to the original schedule, the excitement in the crowd was evident in the draw as Moeen received loud cheers. and Babar in the middle, with England’s deputy captain choosing to go bowling after winning the toss.
Pakistan had come into the series with questions about their opening partnership, but Rizwan and Babar were quick to respond to their criticism and gave viewers more reason to get excited.
It was the Pakistan captain who got off to a fast start, hitting Willey and Curran to the limits in each of the first overs.
Rizwan would then join in, scoring limits from successive Willey balls in the next, as the hosts signaled their intent from what appeared to be batsman-friendly ground.
Even the introduction of England’s spinning duo Moeen and Rashid initially failed to slow down Pakistan, with Rizwan showing off his half-century by crushing the first top of the innings to the England captain.
However, the first wicket would soon follow, with Rashid proving his worth once again as he bowled Babar in with a brilliant googly that completely fooled the Pakistan skipper.
From there, Pakistan would never regain momentum as England capped their run rate and took regular wickets.
Curran had Willey catch Haider Ali on the edge, before Moeen stumped Rizwan for Salt. Rashid then took his second wicket when T20I debutant Shan Masood was caught attempting a reverse sweep.
Lancashire left arm Wood finished the job, bowling Mohammad Nawaz for his first international wicket, before catching Ishtikhar Ahmed and Naseem Shah.
Only Ali, who went 1-23 from his two overs, and Willey, who went 41 from his four, received significant punishment from the Pakistani batsmen. Curran (1-30) and Gleeson 0-13) were able to limit scoring opportunities.
While all eyes were on Hales’ return, it was his fly-half partner Phil Salt who got England off to a flying start as they chased what appeared to be a relatively modest goal on ground known to be batting-friendly.
Despite not displaying much of the brutality that has marked some of his best international tackles, Hales kept his cool as Salt (10), Dawid Malan (20) and Ben Duckett (21) were sacked to keep Pakistan in touch.
There was also a bit of luck, as Pakistan shot him down twice. First, Usman Qadir dropped a hugely difficult catch-and-throw opportunity with Hales at 24, before Shan Masood knocked down a much easier opportunity at the same pitcher’s limit.
While Hales’ half-century on his return was certainly a great comeback story, there was no question that Brook was England’s most impressive batsman on the day.