Print&Features Editor Sophie Utteridge reviews England’s T20 series away in Pakistan, with the tourists coming out as winners
One thing is for certain, England’s return to Pakistan was nothing short of a triumph. In my personal opinion, the T20 series was one of the best I have seen in a very long time. With England travelling light – without the powerhouses of Jonny Bairstow and Jos Butler – many fans were worried that England’s performance would not be worthy of such an occasion. However, neither team disappointed with a very tight series finally ending 4-3 to England.
The series began with four matches in Karachi which saw both sides grapple for control. Apart from the third T20, the first four matches all went down to the wire, much to the delight of the crowd. Both England and Pakistan showed skill when facing spin and, heading into Lahore, the series was tied 2-2. The crowd in the Gaddafi Stadium certainly did not disappoint, and were treated to a final game thriller to see who would come out tournament champions. With the World Cup just around the corner, a series win for either side would boost confidence heading into the warm-up matches.
However, as fiercely as Pakistan played, it must be said that the fragility of their batting order let them down. Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam played magnificently, but even they couldn’t keep Pakistan afloat for seven consecutive matches. England, on the other hand, expertly rested and rotated their players, spreading the responsibility of the run chase throughout the series. In particular, Phil Salt, Alex Hales, Dawid Malan, and Harry Brook were batting standouts for their fantastic performances in a variety of different situations.
Malan and Brook’s match – and series – winning innings in the final game took England to a 4-3 victory in Lahore, ending a thrilling tournament. More important than the cricket, however, was what it meant to the people of Pakistan. For a country that is completely cricket-obsessed, the lack of international tournaments hosted in Pakistan has been incredibly painful. After the terror attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team in 2008, international cricket left the country for over a decade. However, England’s return to the country for the first time since the 2005 Pakistan tour was a huge success – something that was delightfully obvious from the enthusiasm of the crowds.
The tour was also something of a distraction. Recently, Pakistan has suffered catastrophic flooding with almost 33 million people affected. The cricket was a lifeline for many which was acknowledged by both sides. The fundraisers throughout the matches, for example 1000 Pakistani rupees for every 6 scored, was a beautiful touch that raised 13 million Pakistani rupees for flood relief.
Moeen Ali, England’s captain until Jos Buttler returns from injury, said that it was a “great honour” for him to not only captain, but to also do it in Pakistan. He made clear his intentions to help put Pakistani cricket “back on the map”, and I believe it is safe to say this series has definitely helped with that. This series has meant more than just cricket. This much has been obvious from the reaction it caused. With any luck, England’s return to Pakistan, as well as Australia’s tour earlier in the year, will be the catalysts for more international cricket hosted in the country within the next few years. I, for one, can’t wait for more.
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