On a ground synonymous with individual brilliance, an Eoin Morgan-less England produced a stunning team performance to send the Twenty20 series against Pakistan into a winner-takes-all across the Pennines on Tuesday.
This was the first international match at Headingley since Ben Stokes’ 2019 Ashes melodrama, played in the week of the 40th anniversary of Ian Botham’s miraculous 500-1 feats against the Australians.
Liam Livingstone, fresh from his astonishing 42-ball hundred on Friday night, appeared set to take the mantle when a sky-scraper six cleared the vault-barrelled roof of the ground’s new three-tier Emerald Stand and landed on the rugby pitch beyond but another blitz from his bat was stymied at 38 from 23 two deliveries later when he was run out in a late-innings mix-up.
Jos Buttler’s 59 set the foundations for England before Pakistan struggled for a response
The astute bowling of Adil Rashid and Matt Parkinson then saw the hosts to a comfortable win
And so it was the sum of England’s parts that pegged Pakistan back via a 45-run win. While seam bowling has traditionally ruled the roost in Leeds this success was founded on a heavy diet of spin – a positive sign given the style of cricket they will be confronted with at the Twenty20 World Cup in the UAE this autumn.
Friday’s defeat had manufactured the kind of pressure situation Morgan likes his sides to experience and, with his vice-captain Jos Buttler fit following a calf injury, he stepped aside so a greater number of the squad could feel it.
There were times when they might have buckled: at 18 for two after being asked to bat first, or when Pakistan skated to 50 without loss in the chase of 201.
However, Moeen Ali was prominent in altering the momentum on both occasions, first silkily slicing his way to 36 from 16 balls during a quicksilver stand of 67 with Buttler, and later striking twice in an over with his off-spin to serve a reminder of his credentials with just the series finale at Old Trafford left before England name their preliminary World Cup squad.
‘The competition for places is very strong and difficult. There are so many good players coming in and out of the team and it just adds depth and keeps you on your toes,’ Moeen said.
‘Nothing is a given. You have to work hard and perform and that’s only brilliant for our white-ball set-up.’
Jason Roy and Dawid Malan fell early on before Buttler and Moeen Ali steadied the ship
Moeen and Buttler have both taken back seats since returning home from the latter stages of the Test tour of India earlier this year but thrilled a full house of 18,000 with some incredibly powerful ball striking, after Jason Roy and Dawid Malan, the international game’s top-ranked Twenty20 batsman by a street but not guaranteed to be in England’s final 15 names to be handed to the ICC in mid-September, perished attempting big shots during slow left-armer Imad Wasim’s new-ball spell.
Moeen was unpicked by Mohammad Hasnain’s change in pace and if anything Buttler struck the ball too well to find mid-off off the same bowler, having made his second 50 in two international innings this summer.
Livingstone was at the non-striker’s end at that point but soon made it to the business one to leave Headingley agog with his gargantuan strike off Haris.
Liam Livingstone picked up where he left off at Trent Bridge before being dismissed cheaply
The Pakistan bowler had the last laugh, however, with his agility in running out the Lancashire batsman, swirling his arm behind his back to complete the dismissal by dislodging the one remaining bail after knocking off the other with his leg.
A flurry of late wickets checked the momentum, but Matt Parkinson ensured England reached 200 for the second time in 48 hours by slashing a four through backward and then formed a partnership with Adil Rashid which Pakistan found too thorny to handle.
Not since 1950, when Eric Hollies was paired with Roly Jenkins, have England paired two leg-spinners together in tandem and the Roses combo sucked the life out of the Pakistani batting once the power play was over.
Saqib Mahmood claimed the prize wicket of Babar Azam after Pakistan’s encouraging start
Moeen’s off-spin ensnared Sohaib Maqsood as Buttler managed to swoop for a stumping
They complemented each other perfectly: Rashid, producing his usual fizz at one end, claimed a stunning one-handed return catch to account for opener Mohammad Rizwan after fatally luring Sohaib Maqsood out of his ground.
Buttler’s second stumping, that accounted for Azam Khan, off the loopier Parkinson was clocked at just 45 miles per hour and highlighted the difference in their pace.
It came soon after Moeen’s double strike – bowling Fakhar Zaman with a beauty after Mohammad Hafeez hold out – to propel the asking rate to 15 an over off the last seven.
It would have taken something Botham or Stokes-esque from there but it wasn’t that kind of day.
Jonny Bairstow celebrates after the wicket of Mohammad Hafeez as Pakistan crumbled