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For the first time since Pakistan and England locked horns in the United Arab Emirates, the atmosphere came alive. The advent of Twenty20 attracted a raucous crowd under Dubai Cricket Stadium's ring of fire and such was the delight at the outcome that Pakistan might almost have imagined they were at home.
As the clock ticked around towards 11.30pm local time, Pakistan squeezed to an eight-run victory, recovering their self-belief after a 4-0 caning in the ODI series with an excellent bowling display in defence of a competitive but far from daunting total.Umar Gul, who began the night with a maiden, was back to his best, Mohammad Hafeez burst with competitive edge and Saeed Ajmal's penultimate over was masterful. England needed 18 off the last over, from Junaid Khan, who had been the weak link in Pakistan's attack, but they never came close.
Pakistan's captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, had termed this series a "decider" after his side had pulled off a clean sweep in the Tests and England had responded in kind in the ODIs. There was plenty to play for and one of the most passionate cricket crowds Dubai has ever witnessed galvanised Pakistan.
Kevin Pietersen excelled with the bat for England, a batsman convinced that he is heading for the IPL with his superstar status reconfirmed, his 33 from 21 balls beginning with a calculated assault on Junaid and ending unluckily when he pulled Shahid Afridi and picked out the only fielder within many a mile, Asad Shafiq, at deep forward square. For the rest of England's batsmen it was a struggle, a succession of scrambled ones and twos.
Craig Kieswetter backed away so far to the leg side that he could not reach a delivery from Hafeez even though it bowled him leg stump. Ravi Bopara's 39 from 32 balls kept England in contention, but it was a gruelling affair, his sweep shot malfunctioning so often that he will be able to count the bruises.
Jos Buttler was out to his signature shot, shovelling Gul over his left shoulder but picking out Ajmal at short fine leg. When Samit Patel fell lbw to Gul first ball, at 121 for 6, England needed 24 from 16 balls, but they failed to hit a single boundary in the last six overs.
Stuart Broad, England's third captain in 17 days, inserted Pakistan, perhaps sensing their batsmen were low on confidence, but Awais Zia's debut had been eagerly awaited and he did not disappoint, playing with wanton aggression before he was undone by a slower ball from Steven Finn.
Zia has already been called "Young Boom Boom", and such is the reputation in Pakistan of the original "Boom Boom", Shahid Afridi, that accolades of that kind are not given lightly. The name might stick. He is a slim, lightly moustached 25-year-old and displayed a sharp eye and an appetite for swinging from the hip.
Pakistan need an injection of youthful ambition into their Twenty20 team, especially at a time when they need to proclaim they can renew despite being precluded from playing internationals at home because of fears of terrorist attacks.
Finn had looked all but unplayable in the ODI series, but Zia deposited the second ball he faced over midwicket and, in Finn's next over, top-edged a murderous pull for six. He will be loved for his freewheeling style. Finn, though, gave him a send-off - a tyro himself, transformed into a bit of a grump. Finn had a bad night, his four overs costing 39.It was a late start in Dubai - 8pm, not too far short of the time when Graeme Swann begins to wonder where his cat is. He responded with his best T20I figures, 3 for 13 as his off-spin removed Hafeez, Afridi and Umar Akmal in the space of eight balls - and he began with the run out of Asad Shafiq for good
VVS Laxman, S Sreesanth and Brendon McCullum - all part of the now-defunct Kochi Tuskers Kerala in the 2011 IPL - have commanded the highest reserve price of US$ 400,000 in the final auction shortlist for the 2012 season. The Kochi trio joins England offspinner Graeme Swann, who is yet to feature in the IPL, as the four players to command the maximum base price in the 144-strong list.On January 20, the BCCI had released a
A victory fashioned by the unsung
Two young batsmen and an overshadowed bowler did it for Pakistan in Abu Dhabi. Now the administrators must ensure this winning team is left undisturbed
It is surprising how even seasoned observers of the game keep underestimating the potential of the fourth innings for psycho-drama. A stentorian voice announces that atarget of 145could not possibly trouble the world's best side. Another concurs, noting that 145 would be a routine ask in a T20; the chasing team would hardly bat an eyelid. There are some rebuttals but they are muted. You can't compare the two, someone mutters under his breath, explaining that in Tests there are neither field restrictions nor a limit on the number of overs per bowler. But most of all there is the unique psychology.
As compellingly demonstrated by Pakistan's victory in Abu Dhabi, going down the order in a fourth-innings chase is like plumbing the depths of the ocean. Pressure mounts exponentially, and it gets dark very soon. Low-to-medium targets are the hardest, because they tempt you like a mirage, until you fall, thirsty and desperate, grabbing at nothing.
If you want precedents, you could go all the way back toThe Ovalin 1882, when England failed to chase 85. Granted that was another era, with a different culture and playing conditions, but it happens to be the match that gave birth to the Ashes, and so casts a very long shadow. Since then there have been13 other occasionswhen England have failed to chase a target of under 200.
England suffered one of their most disastrous batting collapses in Test history as they disintegrated against Pakistan's spinners to lose the second Test in Abu Dhabi and with it the series. Pakistan went 2-0 up with one to play as Abdur Rehman, their left-arm spinner, took most of the plaudits with a Test-best 6 for 25.
England's top order collapsed against Pakistan's spinners after Monty Panesar's triumphant return to Test cricket left them chasing 145 for victory in the second Test at the Sheikh Zayed stadium.
After 22 careworn overs, they were 39 for 4, with the captain Andrew Strauss fortunate to be spared on 23. Another calamitous batting display saw them lose four wickets for 16 runs in 37 balls and to add to their woes, Jonathan Trott was afflicted by a debilitating stomach bug.
England's plight could have been worse if Strauss had been given out caught off bat and pad at short leg by Azhar Ali, off the left-arm spinner Abdur Rehman. Strauss, on 16, was blessed as the umpires turned to the third umpire, Billy Bowden, to check if the ball had carried and Bowden, in a pernickety decision that defied commonsense, responded that he could not be certain. It was impossible to see where his doubt had arisen.England, as if shaken by Trott's illness, crawled to 21 in 15 overs before Alastair Cook tried to work Rehman into the legside against the spin and chipped a gentle return catch off a leading edge. It was the least that Pakistan deserved because he should have been
The Sydney Sixers began the Big Bash League as one of the least fancied sides but they have won the tournament after Moises Henriques set up their chase in the final against the Perth Scorchers. In front of a WACA crowd desperate to see the state's first silverware - albeit not for the Warriors - in nearly a decade, the Sixers spoiled the party and won by five wickets.
Mitchell Marsh had excited the Perth fans with a powerful innings of 77 after Marcus North chose to bat, but Brett Lee helped contain the Scorchers to 5 for 156, which was a gettable, though challenging target. Henriques and Steve O'Keefe put together a 110-run opening stand in the chase and it was a start the home side was unable to pull back.A pair of wickets from Ben Edmondson late in the game gave the Scorchers a sniff, as the Sixers needed 22 from the final three overs. But the Sixers captain Steven Smith procured three boundaries and 15 in total from the next over, a poor one from Nathan Rimmington, and from there it was all very straightforward
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