LAHORE-The advertisers are dressing up the iconic Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore on Tuesday. The production crew is zipping between the FC College and Pavilion End to lay their equipment at the designated areas. The hour has arrived – England are in the city to play their first match in Lahore since December 2005, an ODI affair they lost by seven wickets, and they play Pakistan today (Wednesday) in the fifth of the seven T20Is.
Pakistan and England arrived in the city yesterday afternoon after four riveting T20Is in Karachi. After what will go down as the comeback for the ages by Pakistan, the series stands level at 2-2 and it is upon Lahore, fondly referred to as the ‘heart of the country’ in the subcontinent literature, to decide the winners. Heavy afternoon showers deprived the two sides of a first look at the ground, so they enter match five with a few unknowns, something that promises to add spice to tomorrow’s face-off.
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The four Karachi matches were played in front of full houses, and the Gaddafi Stadium, Pakistan’s home of cricket, promises the same electric atmosphere. Pakistan enter the Lahore leg with momentum behind them after they pulled off a miraculous three-run victory in the final over, courtesy extraordinary death over bowling from Haris Rauf and an acrobatic Shan Masood run out.
Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan – the most successful opening pair in the history of T20Is – were phenomenal in Karachi, accumulating 50 runs inside powerplay in three of the four matches. Babar brought an end to a string of low scores in the second T20I with an incredible century in what was the highest run chase without losing a wicket and Rizwan – who has scored the most runs in the format since the start of 2021 – comes to Lahore after smashing three half-centuries in four matches. The wicketkeeper is the leading run-getter in the series with 252 at 84 runs per dismissal and a strike rate of over 142.
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Shan scored his maiden half-century in just his second innings - albeit in a losing cause. But, Shan reaching the 50-run mark in just 28 balls augurs well for Pakistan. Babar will hope that Haris continues to do what he had done in the last four matches. The fast bowler took six wickets – the most in the series to date - at a staggering economy of 7.75, considering he bowls in the powerplay and death.
It is England’s youngsters who have been one of the talking points in this series. Twenty-three-year-old Harry Brook rose to the occasion in the first T20I and helped England chase down a whirlwind 25-ball 42 not out, and he partnered with Ben Duckett in the third to set the largest total to be scored at the venue and script England’s eventual 63-run win.
The fact that the series is playing the build-up to the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup adds more flavour as the two teams finalise their combinations ahead of the all-important tournament. Both teams fly out immediately after the seventh match – Pakistan fly to New Zealand to play the hosts and Bangladesh in a tri-series and England take on Australia in Australia.
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