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Hafeez, Wahab star as Pakistan end tour with T20I series-levelling victory
Match Report

Hafeez, Wahab star as Pakistan end tour with T20I series-levelling victory

Mohammad Hafeez and debutant Haider Ali headlined Pakistan's belligerent batting display before a dynamic penultimate over from Wahab Riaz helped the tourists seal a tight five-run win in the third T20I against England.

At one stage, England looked set to cruise to the challenging 191-run target owing to a superb knock from Moeen Ali but Pakistan clawed their way back into the contest courtesy a scintillating over from Wahab.

Although the game looked to be in the firm grasp of Pakistan, the final over was also filled with drama with England coming right back in with a shot at pulling off a dramatic heist when Tom Curran hammered a length delivery off Haris Rauf on the second last ball.

Having met the furious glare of skipper Babar Azam, Rauf did well to keep his calm on the ultimate ball of the match as he darted in a perfect wide yorker to evade the reach of Curran's bat.

Pakistan's thrilling five-run win allows them to finish the two-month long tour of England on a high note by clinching their first triumph. The outcome of the T20I leg reads 1-1 in favour of both teams since the first match was abandoned due to persistent rain.

The high-scoring encounter had numerous ebbs and flows over the course of a riveting battle as England rode on the heroics of Moeen to dash back into a dominant position.

Tom Banton and Eoin Morgan's departure in quick succession left England reeling at 69-4 in the eighth over with new batsmen Sam Billings and Moeen on the crease.

Morgan, the chief architect of England's successful run-chase in the previous game, was involved in a terrible mix-up that cost him his wicket.

On the other hand, Banton was beaten for Rauf's wild pace as the ball skidded off the surface to thud into his pads prompting loud appeals from the fielding side. The umpire's not-out verdict was then overturned upon review by Babar as the team celebrated Banton's dismissal for a 31-ball 46.

For the next few overs, England steadily repaired the middle-order damage as the boundaries started to dry up. Just when Moeen seemed to be struggling for timing, he nailed an unorthodox reverse-sweep off Shadab to regain some confidence.

Later, he pounded Shaheen Afridi straight back over the bowler's head for a glorious maximum to signal a shift in momentum. While Billings was caught on deep third man off Wahab, Moeen went ballistic during Shadab's last over to revive England's hopes of a victory.

The left-handed batsman tonked three sixes in four deliveries, all of which travelled far beyond the boundary fence as he pulled back the asking rate from 12.40 to almost 10 an over.

Moeen reached his fifty in just 25 balls and brought the equation down to 22 from 15 balls but Shaheen struck a crucial blow by outfoxing Lewis Gregory with a slower ball. In contrast to his earlier dismissal of Jonny Bairstow via a searing yorker, Shaheen rolled his fingers over the ball to disturb Gregory's stumps.

England were still in control but were undone by Wahab's experience as the left-arm veteran gave away just three runs to return figures of 2-26 in his four overs. Wahab's superhuman effort saw him first enact a splendid run-out of Chris Jordan and then induced a false stroke from Moeen to bring curtains to his exceptional 33-ball 61.

Moeen's explosive batting was matched by two significant contributions in Pakistan's innings - one from the evergreen Hafeez and the other from teenage sensation Haider.

The two starred in a rapid 100-run stand, which rescued Pakistan from sliding into disarray when they lost their openers for cheap scores.

Despite the existence of a 20-year age gap between Hafeez and Haider, both excellently complemented each other and blasted the England bowlers all over the park.

Haider became the first Pakistan player to hit a fifty on T20I debut before his demise came off Jordan's pinpoint yorker for a 33-ball 54.

Undeterred by the loss of Haider, Hafeez carried on his hostile surge and racked up six maximums in his majestic 86 as Pakistan posted 190-4 in their allotted 20 overs.

Fresh from a half-century on Sunday, the 39-year-old's sparkling performances in these games resulted in another man of the series award for him.