England 209 for 6 (Malan 78*, Brook 46*) beat Pakistan 142 for 8 (Shan 56, Woakes 3-26) by 67 runs
For a series that has showcased the best of international T20 cricket, it was a shame the finale carried so little jeopardy. England’s comprehensive team performance was to blame for that, firstly by posting 209 for three which required Pakistan to embark on a record-breaking chase at the Gaddafi Stadium. At no point did they threaten to make it, eventually finishing on 142 for eight from their 20 overs. A smart bowling performance confirmed a 4-3 series to England thanks to victory by 67 runs, Pakistan’s fourth-biggest such margin in the format.
The crowd at Lahore had high hopes for a blockbuster finish, not least with the reintroduction of their A-listers to the XI with Rizwan and Haris Rauf returning along with Mohammad Hasnain and Khushdil Shah. England, by contrast, opted against using Mark Wood, a key point of difference in their attack, with a view to preserving him for the T20 World Cup in Australia, while captain Jos Buttler sat out once more.
With the tourists batting first after Moeen Ali lost the toss, Phil Salt and Alex Hales picked up where they left off in the sixth match. Though a repeat of the 82 England managed during the powerplay on Friday looked a stretch, the pair were well-set on 39 for no loss after four overs. However three balls into the fifth, they were back in the dressing room. Hales was trapped lbw by a delivery from Hasnain that nipped back as the right-hander strayed across his stumps. Salt was then run out by Shadab Khan, with more than a little help from Malan who aborted a single late and with little communication. A direct hit beat Salt as he sprinted almost the full length of the pitch to the bowler’s end.
Malan used his error as fuel, initially with Ben Duckett as the pair shared a stand off 62 that went at two a ball and saw them team up to take down Shadab for 20 in the ninth over, with a six apiece. Duckett was eventually done in by a brilliant piece of work from Rizwan behind the stumps, who gathered the ball off an under-edge and brought it to the stumps in one motion. But the assault on spin continued as Brook climbed into Shadab and Iftikhar Ahmed, whose final over was taken for 12 to leave England 146 for three after 14.
Hasnain and Rauf combined to ensure just eight were scored in the next two overs. But Pakistan could and should have restricted the tourists further had they taken their chances. Malan was dropped on 29 by Babar at cover who then went on to give Brook a life on 24 when a simple catch pierced his hands at mid-off, after Rauf had drawn a high mishit with a slower delivery.
Rauf then had Malan missed off his bowling (on 64) by Mohammad Wasim in the deep, whose misery was taken to new depths when he stepped up to close out the innings. Malan struck a six over square leg and edged for four through third man off the first two deliveries before Brook smashed the fourth back over the bowler’s head as 20 runs came from the final over.
The lack of effort to get to the chance, and the lack of remonstration from the bowler, spoke of a match that was over well before it came to an end. But the overriding thought at the end of these seven matches was how long and overdue it has been for an England side to tour Pakistan. Of all the takeaways from this series, particularly for the World Cup, that is a standout positive.
We did not learn anything new about Brook following his 46 in this match. Even coming off just 29 deliveries, with four sixes among the five boundaries struck, told us nothing we did not know about his temperament or shot selection. All that needed to be known, of a middle-order dynamo who has the game to operate in every period of a T20 innings, had been confirmed in the previous 191 runs of this tour, especially the 81 not out in the third meeting which propelled England to 220. On Sunday, having ticked over to 29 off 23, his next six balls brought 17, as he cleared the fence twice against Wasim and, most importantly of all, rotated the strike to aid the free-flowing Malan, including for the start of the final over. That Brook ends the series as England’s leading run-scorer with 237 at 79 is incredible enough for a 23-year-old on his first England tour. To do so from No.5, and to strike at 163, confirmed that even with Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Liam Livingstone reinforcing the batting in Australia, Brook has cemented his place in the team for the T20 World Cup.
There was a moment during the third over of England’s innings that typified Haris Rauf’s attitude. Alex Hales had hammered Mohammed Wasim inside mid-off for a certain four before Rauf, galloping from mid-on, hurled himself at the sponge and saved a boundary. We’re in an era where fast bowlers have to do the dirty work and, as outstanding as the piece of fielding as it was, Rauf expects those standards of himself. Unfortunately, the favour went unreturned. He should have boasted the wickets of Brook and Malan – both dropped by his captain – and in turn Pakistan lost the thread of this match. Even without a notch or two in the wicket column, his four overs in which he conceded just one boundary ensured this wasn’t a whole lot worse. He finishes as the leading wicket-taker with eight at 23.62, which serves as a reminder that even a world-class operator relies on support from those around him.
Lahore delivers its final verdict
There were cheers when Khushdil Shah was caught down the leg-side off Rashid. It was as much a reflection of the next man in – Asif Ali – as Khushdil’s own 27 off 25, which had been as helpful to the cause as a hole in the bat. This wasn’t the first time in these weeks that crowds have yearned for Asif to come to the crease while expressing glee at Khushdil’s departure. He’d do well not to take it personally, though that’s easier to say on this side of the fence.
Fundamentally, he is a man caught in the midst of a public disapproval of the way Pakistan approach batting in this format, particularly during the middle overs and especially beyond their superstar openers. No team should be so reliant on two players and Asif is certainly one who should be given opportunities up the order, given his propensity to hit boundaries. As it happens, he only managed seven today before being caught out at deep square leg for Woakes’ second. At that point, with 111 required from the final 31 balls, the crowds emptied into the streets of Lahore as the rest of the match played out in front of a half-empty stadium. The silence that accompanied the final throes arguably sent the loudest message of all.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo