Pacer Chris Woakes held his nerve in the final over to give England a hard-fought three-run win in the second Twenty20 international over Pakistan in Dubai on Friday, thus clinching the three-match series 2-0.
Woakes conceded just seven runs in the 20th over to restrict Pakistan to 169-8 and help England defend a 173-run target.
The 24,000 fans, mostly expats from Pakistan, had expected their team to pull off a sensational win after skipper Shahid Afridi smashed a blistering eight-ball 24 with three sixes and a boundary. But Anwar Ali failed to connect on the last delivery off which Pakistan had needed four for victory.
Afridi took 22 off the 18th over by Woakes but his dismissal on the last ball of the over left Pakistan to score 25 off the last two.
Pakistan’s batsmen were once again reckless as most of them got good starts but failed to capitalise. Ahmed Shehzad top-scored with an 18-ball 28 with two fours and as many sixes. Mohammad Hafeez made 25, Raffatullah Mohmand scored 23, Shoaib Malik managed 26 off 21 balls while talented Umar Akmal managed just three and Sohaib Maqsood only two.
England paceman Liam Plunkett bowled with fire and venom to finish with 3-33 while leg-spinner Adil Rashid grabbed 2-18 in his four probing overs.
“It was a bit stressful as captain,” said England’s stand-in skipper Jos Buttler. “We certainly weren’t as fluent as we liked. Staying calm is key with the nature of Twenty20 cricket and you have to give the bowlers the ownership of what they want to do and trust them.
“It’s a fantastic win and we are very happy.”
Afridi said his team have plenty of work to do. “First I want to congratulate England as they are playing really well,” said Afridi.
“But we have to improve our fitness and fielding before the World Twenty20 (next year in India).
“I had a good opportunity to win the game but I missed it.”
England were lifted to 172-8 by a quick-fire 24-ball 38 by James Vince and 22-ball-33 by Buttler as they upped the tempo by notching 58 in the last five overs.
Leg-spinner Shahid Afridi, who took 3-15 in his four overs, derailed the England batting after they looked well-set at 32-0 in the fourth over. Afridi trapped Alex Hales leg before for 11 and then had Jason Roy caught behind for a 22-ball 29 (two sixes and a four) to leave England at 47-2.
Joe Root made 20 before Buttler and Vince lifted England with a 35-run partnership for the fourth wicket. Afridi returned for his last over to have Vince caught in the deep. Vince hit two sixes and three boundaries. His wicket was Afridi’s 86th in as many matches, beating countryman Saeed Ajmal (85 wickets in 64 matches) as the highest wicket-taker in all Twenty20 cricket.
Buttler smashed three sixes and a boundary to give England a challenging total to defend.
England, who won the first match by 14 runs in Dubai on Thursday, rested skipper Eoin Morgan in one of four changes to their side. Pakistan brought back Shehzad and Malik in place of Mohammad Rizwan and Imran Khan Junior.
The final match is in Sharjah on Monday.