Karachi, 20 September 2022: Alex Hales marked his return to international cricket in a remarkable fashion as his 53 in 40 orchestrated England’s solid six-wicket win over Pakistan in front of a jam-packed National Stadium in the first of the seven T20 Internationals. This was England’s first-ever international T20I in Pakistan.
It was a dream return of sorts for Hales, who has not featured in England colours since 2019, as he anchored the run chase, scoring at a strike rate of 133, and helping his side roll over the 159-run target with four balls spare.
After the early wicket of Phil Salt, who made run-a-ball 10, Hales added crucial runs with Dawid Malan (20 off 15) and Ben Duckett (21 off 17) with both partnerships worth 34, before Harry Brook’s whirlwind 25-ball 42 not out (seven fours) took the game away from the grasp of the hosts.
Naseem Shah’s first over went for 14 runs with both the openers – Salt and Hales – hitting a boundary each. The introduction of Shahnawaz Dahani, following a tight second over from Mohammad Nawaz, provided Babar Azam’s side a breakthrough when Salt pulled the right-arm pacer’s short-pitched delivery into the hands of Haider Ali, stationed at deep square-leg.
That was the only wicket Pakistan would bag in the powerplay as Malan and Hales launched a counterattack. Malan welcomed Usman Qadir with a six over his head – off a full toss – at the start of the seventh over, but a beautiful leg-break delivery bamboozled Malan the next ball, who edged it back to the bowler to cup it safely.
Duckett’s adventurous approach did not reap him the rewards he and Moeen Ali, who captained England in the absence of an injured Jos Buttler, would have expected as he was trapped LBW trying to reverse sweep a ball.
Hales fell in the 17th over when he top-edged Haris Rauf, but the match had been settled in England’s favour by then.
Pakistan posted 158 - after Moeen elected to bowl - at the back of Mohammad Rizwan’s 68 in 46. Pakistan were off to a flying start as the pair of Rizwan and Babar lifted Pakistan to 51 by the close of powerplay and had them at 85 at 9.3 overs when the latter was bowled off a scorching googly from Adil Rashid.
Pakistan lost their next three wickets for 11 runs as Haider, Rizwan and Shan Masood fell inside 11 balls. Debutant Luke Wood had a terrific start to his T20I career returning three for 24 from four overs. The collapse was further aggravated by the left-arm pacer with the scalps of Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Nawaz and Naseem Shah at death as the hosts could add only 71 in the last 10 overs.
The two sides meet for the second T20I on Thursday at the same venue, where the third and fourth matches will also be played. The action moves to Lahore from 28 September as the Gaddafi Stadium, Pakistan’ Home of Cricket, hosts the last three matches.
Scores in brief:
England beat Pakistan by six wickets
Pakistan 158-7, 20 overs (Mohammad Rizwan 68, Babar Azam 31, Iftikhar Ahmed 28; Luke Wood 3-24, Adil Rashid 2-27)
England 160-4, 19.2 overs (Alex Hales 53, Harry Brook 42 not out, Ben Duckett 21, Dawid Malan 20; Usman Qadir 2-36)
Player of the match – Luke Wood (England)