Every time an even number of games have been played in this series, Pakistan and England have found themselves level. After six intoxicating and wildly entertaining games, neither side has been able to pull clear, and you suspect the final game have would been a decider no matter how many matches this series was played across.
It might be a smidge harsh on England that the series is level if the nature of each side’s wins were to be compared. England’s triumphs have tended to be blowouts, those games encapsulating the gulf in raw T20 batting ability between the two sides. Pakistan, meanwhile, have found ways to eke out wins by harnessing the intangibles – momentum and pressure at key stages of matches, and of course their trademark unpredictability.
There were surely elements of fortune in the way Pakistan swung those games in their favour, but no side knows better than them that upon such moments are careers built.
It is perhaps ironic that the joint-longest T20I series of all ultimately boils down to a one-match shootout, but the journey that gets us there has been little short of exhilarating. Pakistan felt England owed a debt to the side after Pakistan’s tour during the initial outbreak of Covid-19 was reciprocated with a snub the following year.
But since England arrived in Pakistan, there has been a deluge of goodwill from both sides, with friendships forged off the field and skills fine-tuned on it. Packed houses have greeted the teams at all six games, and even the presidential-level security that flanks England appears not to have dampened their enjoyment of the tour.
It is also perhaps appropriate that during a series that bore criticism for failing to prepare conditions that would imitate the surfaces the two sides will encounter at the T20 World Cup in Australia, it at least finishes with a do-or-die game.
Pakistan LWWLW (last five completed T20Is, most recent first)
In the spotlight
Pakistan (probable): 1 Babar Azam (capt), 2 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 3 Shan Masood, 4 Iftikhar Ahmed, 5 Khushdil Shah, 6 Asif Ali, 7 Mohammad Nawaz, 8 Shadab Khan, 9 Mohammad Hasnain/Aamer Jamal, 10 Mohammad Wasim, 11 Haris Rauf
Neither side trained on Saturday but with the series on the line, England are likely to field their strongest available side, with Chris Woakes and Mark Wood both in the frame to return. Jos Buttler appears unlikely to play despite making good progress in his rehabilitation from a calf injury and Moeen Ali will continue as captain in his absence.
England (probable): 1 Phil Salt (wk), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Ben Duckett, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Moeen Ali (capt), 7 Sam Curran, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Mark Wood, 11 Reece Topley
Pitch and conditions
Conditions are once more likely to be hot and humid. The decider is likely to be played on a used pitch at Gaddafi Stadium and has been sold out for weeks.
Stats and trivia
- David Willey is two wickets shy of becoming the first left-arm England bowler to take 50 T20I wickets, while Rashid needs four more to overtake Chris Jordan as England’s all-time leading wicket-taker in the format.
- Two more wickets for Shadab Khan will make him the second-highest T20I wicket-taker for Pakistan, taking him past Umar Gul and Saeed Ajmal, and behind only Shahid Afridi’s 97.
- Pakistan have never won a multi-game T20I series against England.
Danyal Rasool is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo. @Danny61000