Babar Azam’s century fires Pakistan to 10-wicket T20 win against England | Pakistan v England 2022

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On Tuesday night, the Karachi crowd were so loud that Alex Hales described it as one of the best atmospheres in world cricket. But that paled in comparison to how the National Stadium felt and sounded two days later, when Pakistan won a famous victory by 10 wickets after chasing down England’s sizeable 199 with three balls to spare. There’s been a lot of talk in the Pakistani media about the weakness of the team’s middle order. Truth is, it doesn’t much matter how the rest of them bat when you have two openers who can play the way Mohammad Rizwan and Babar Azam did here.

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No one left early this time, not with two of the best T20 batsmen in the world (Rizwan is currently No 1, Azam No 3 in the ICC rankings) going like this. It ended up being by far the biggest total ever chased down in a 10-wicket victory in the history of international T20 cricket. By the time Moeen Ali, who must have desperately regretted his decision to bat first, brought himself on to bowl the 13th over and ended up conceding 21 runs, England seemed to be pretty much flat out of ideas about how to get them out.

They had swapped in Liam Dawson for Richard Gleeson, which meant they had three spinners and three left-arm seamers. Between them, they created three chances. Their fielding cost them every one. Rizwan was dropped once on 23, by Hales off Liam Dawson, and again by Ali on 83. He also survived a stumping chance off Adil Rashid on 32. These were the only blemishes. Azam’s innings was immaculate. His hundred came off 62 balls, and was full of vicious cuts and wicked pulls; he finished on an unbeaten 110. Rizwan finished on 88 off 51.

England’s total felt formidable. It was built around an opening stand of 42 between Hales and Phil Salt, an inventive 43 off 22 balls by Ben Duckett that was all scoops and sweeps and glances, a blistering 31 off 19 by Harry Brook, and, the cherry on top, a 23-ball fifty by Moeen Ali.

Ali had said earlier in the week that what he really wanted to do while in Pakistan was help raise funds for the floods affecting the south of the country. He did exactly that by hitting four glorious sixes, each of which cost the sponsors a $1,000 donation. The PCB had brought 300 fans who had been affected by the floods up to watch the game and they seemed to enjoy his innings; everyone does when he bats like that. He hit two in two balls with a pair of glorious sweeps off Usman Qadir, and then pulled two in two off Mohammad Hasnain to finish the innings.

Moeen Ali in action against Pakistan for England.
Moeen Ali hit his half-century from just 23 balls but his efforts were soon eclipsed by Pakistan’s openers. Photograph: Anjum Naveed/AP

Ali’s partnership with Brook was worth 59 off 27 balls. Duckett played well too. He is playing for England for the first time since 2019 on this tour, and batting like he has a point to prove. But all their efforts were put in fresh perspective by the way Pakistan played later. Between them, Azam and Rizwan hit 16 fours and nine sixes. Only Dawson and Sam Curran were able to even begin to contain them.

Pakistan’s bowlers provided their share of entertainment too, especially Haris Rauf and Shahnawaz Dahani, who took two wickets each. Dahani, who plays for the local province of Sindh, lit up the ground when he bowled Hales and Dawid Malan with consecutive balls.

Dahani celebrated each wicket by spinning on his heel and sprinting back the way he came, wagging his finger and shouting madly like he was chasing after someone who had just pinched his bicycle. Which was all very entertaining for the crowd, but led to an unfortunate moment later when he set off all over again to celebrate having Ali caught in the deep. He made it most of the way to the boundary before he finally realised, after he heard Azam shouting out, that Khushdil Shah had dropped the catch. Funny as it was, he and his teammates were the ones doing all the laughing by the time the game was over.

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