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Babar and Rizwan are the best in business. Today was only its demonstration.

Karachi, 22 September 2022: Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan form the best T20I opening pair and why that is the case was on display in front of a packed house at the National Stadium as the duo overhauled a mammoth 200-run target with three balls spare against England to hand Pakistan their second 10-wicket win in the format. They are the only pair to put seven 100-plus stands together and to make over 1,800 runs together.

The hosts entered the contest at the back of a defeat in a one-sided affair on Tuesday and as England went 1-0 up in the seven-match series, Pakistan faced their third consecutive loss. With the pressure mounting on Babar’s side, Moeen Ali, the England captain, influenced by the dryness and cracks on the pitch elected to bat and his side dominated the first half of the match, making the journey to a daunting 199 for five.

The need of the hour was batting brilliance and the 30,000 fans that turned out to back their side were not disappointed from the onset of the run chase as Rizwan – who struck his career’s 18th half-century – cut and flicked David Willey for two boundaries in the first over.

Babar – who became only the second captain from a Test playing nation after India’s Rohit Sharma to score two centuries in the format – made his intentions clear in the third over pulling Sam Curran for a four at deep mid-wicket and lifting his slower-one down the ground for another boundary.

Pakistan, from that point, primarily dealt in boundaries, with Rizwan’s signature pick-up off the pads going for six in the fifth over being the highlight, and won the powerplay by piling 59 runs. England had made 48 for two in their first six overs.

Rizwan had reprieves on the way – the first in the powerplay when Alex Hales spilled a chance backpeddling at mid-off and the second at the start of the seventh over when Phil Salt failed to glove Adil Rashid’s ball with the batter down the wicket. He made England pay right away dispatching Adil for two fours on the bounce two balls later.

Babar, at the start of his second over, dispatched Adil for a four through covers through a cracking shot. The two gathered singles every remaining ball. It was the constant strike rotation that formed the hallmark of their partnership in the middle overs and denied the England bowlers any opportunity to tie one of them up.

Liam Dawson – one of the regular features in the HBL Pakistan Super League – replaced Richard Gleeson to add to the spin bowling stocks, and despite the bite on offer on occasions, Pakistan openers comfortably pushed the England spinners back.

The tactical genius of the two meant Pakistan won the first 10 overs as well, finishing seven runs better than England. Rizwan reached the 50-run mark right after the drinks break.

Soon the moment of the match was to follow as Babar and Rizwan took turns dispatching Moeen into the stands in an over that cost the tourists 21 runs and left the one of the biggest amphitheatres of the country buzzing.

Babar, on the first ball, spanked Moeen over mid-wicket, then deposited him over wide long-on, before Rizwan smashed the England captain over backward square. The over lifted Pakistan’s run rate to 9.61, just 1.10 behind the required, and one over later when the two smashed Adil for a six each, the current run rate surpassed the required, and left Pakistan needing 49 off the last five.

Babar, who had come into the series after a string of bad scores in the ACC Men’s T20 Asia Cup, completed his record second century in the 18th over when he tapped and ran to complete a single on his 62nd ball.

They say the penultimate over is the most important in T20 cricket and Moeen, in his last ditch effort, handed the ball to previous match’s top-performer, Luke Wood, to tilt the 20 off 12 equation into England’s favour, but Babar and Rizwan stole 17 off it, making the nervy left-arm pacer bowl three wides.

Babar drilled Curran through covers - with the equation now down to one off four - to complete one of the most fascinating run chases of all time. A run chase that seemed insurmountable had now turned into a cakewalk, something that is a testament to the class of these two.

England had a field day with the bat as Moeen’s fascinating 55 not out from just 23 balls lifted them to 199 for five. The opening pair of Salt and Alex Hales provided a solid start to the visitors gathering 42 in five overs before the shrewd introduction of Shahnawaz Dahani bowled Hales and Dawid Malan on the first two balls of the sixth.

Ben Duckett played an exceptional innings in the middle. He attacked Mohammad Nawaz’s left-arm orthodox with masterful sweeps (both traditional and reverse) and scoops, making 43 off 22 (seven fours) before he was cleaned up by Nawaz.

Harry Brook looked in good touch as he attacked the pace bowlers, but missed Haris Rauf’s guileful cutter to be bowled in the 17th.

Moeen then took on the charge and spanked Dahani for two fours in the 18th and deposited Hasnain, who gave only three runs in the first over, courtesy some disciplined and tight bowling, for consecutive sixes on the last two balls of the innings.

Haris was the other bowler to finish with two wickets as Dahani.

This win also made Babar Pakistan’s most successful T20I captain with 30 wins.

Scores in brief:

Pakistan beat England by 10 wickets

England 199-5, 20 overs (Moeen Ali 55 not out, Ben Duckett 43, Harry Brook 31, Phil Salt 30, Alex Hales 26; Haris Rauf 2-30, Shahnawaz Dahani 2-37)

Pakistan 203-0, 19.3 overs (Babar Azam 110 not out, Mohammad Rizwan 88 not out)

Player of the match – Babar Azam (Pakistan)