England square T20 series with Pakistan after impressively limiting the tourists to 155, with Saqib Mahmood taking three wickets after Jos Buttler's swashbuckling half-century at Headingley
On a ground synonymous with individual brilliance, an England side missing captain Eoin Morgan produced a stunning team display to send this T20 series against Pakistan into a winner-takes-all clash across the Pennines on Tuesday.
This was the first international match at Headingley since Ben Stokes’s 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 behind it, but another blitz from his bat was stymied at 38 from 23 — he was run out in a late-innings mix-up.
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 face at the T20 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 others could feel it, too.
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 stand of 67 with Buttler, and later striking twice in an over with his off-spin to send a reminder of his skills 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.’
Moeen and Buttler thrilled a full house of 18,000 with some powerful ball-striking, after Jason Roy and Dawid Malan had perished attempting big shots off slow left-armer Imad Wasim.
Moeen was unpicked by Muhammad Hasnain, and off the same bowler Buttler struck the ball to mid-off. Livingstone would soon leave Headingley agog with his gargantuan strike off Haris Rauf.
The Pakistan bowler had the last laugh, however, running out the Lancashire man by dislodging the one remaining bail after knocking off the other with a leg.
A flurry of late wickets checked the momentum, but Matt Parkinson ensured England reached 200 for the second time in 48 hours, and then formed a fine bowling partnership with Adil Rashid.
Not since 1950, when Eric Hollies was paired with Roly Jenkins, have England had two leg-spinners in tandem and the Roses combo sucked the life out of the Pakistan batting.
Rashid, producing his usual fizz at one end, claimed a stunning one-handed return catch to account for opener Mohammad Rizwan after earlier luring Sohaib Maqsood out of his ground.
Buttler’s second stumping accounted for Azam Khan off the loopier Parkinson.
That came soon after Moeen’s double strike — bowling Fakhar Zaman with a beauty after Mohammad Hafeez had been caught — to propel the asking rate to 15 an over off the last seven.
It would have taken something Botham or Stokes-esque from there, and it wasn’t that kind of day.