Pak vs Eng, 2nd T20I, Karachi

The noise inside the Karachi National Stadium was deafening. Babar Azam slipped David Willey into extra cover and threw himself into the cool night sky, punching the air and immersing himself in the roar of an exhausted crowd. Mohammad Rizwan held his arms up, took off his helmet and looked up at the sky before approaching his opening companion and wrapping his arms around him.

They had just completed the biggest 10 wicket win in T20 history and became the first pair to put a 200-run partnership in a T20 chase, breaking their own record. But more than that, after relentless scrutiny and criticism, they had reminded their fans how brilliantly effective they can be.

For Pakistan, T20 international cricket is about the thrill of the chase. Since Rizwan was promoted to open in December 2020, Pakistan have won 15 games by beating second and have only lost three; when they beat first, they have won as many games as they have lost (10 each).

At the break in the innings, a goal of 200 seemed like a difficult task, even on a terrain where average scores are high and three out of five pursuits are successful. Pakistan seamers were expensive but had the ball sliding down, while the slower balls seemed to grab from a certain length. “I thought it was a very good score,” said Moeen Ali, the England captain.

Their method – building a platform with low-risk shots in powerplay, then waiting for the right moment to suddenly pounce – has won many games in Pakistan, but also lost a few. Raise the floor but can lower the ceiling: Pakistan rarely get kicked out for cheap, but their mixed-batting record first suggests they’ve often leaked spills. Their batting pattern is outlier in a format characterized by powerful hits.

But on Thursday night, chasing a big score helped provide clarity of thought. Rizwan started brilliantly, scuffing two of the first four balls he faced for four and wiping out David Willey for six, but he received two lives early: at 23 he was dropped by an Alex Hales who backed down and at 32 he was Was beaten during the charge Adil Rashid but Phil Salt missed a difficult opportunity.

Babar was the slowest starter and pulled out his half century with 39 balls, nine more than Rizwan. They steadily accumulated after powerplay, but with eight overs remaining, the required rate had gone up to exactly two runs per ball, with Liam Dawson shaking his four overs for just 26 runs.

“We don’t listen to those from outside who are snipers. There will always be criticism and if you don’t do well people wait to jump. The fans always support us.”

Babar Azam

But the 13th was the turning point, as Babar sensed the opportunity to take Moeen down and took it. He often cautiously beat against spin in this format, but twice beat Moeen on the midwicket and in the barbed wire fences separating the fans from the playing field, doubling the number of six he has scored against offspin in his career. in the T20I in the process.

After Babar had pushed Moeen’s over fifth ball, Rizwan swept away the sixth for six. The over cost 21 rides and the requested fare dropped to 10.71. “I sincerely feel I have lost the game for us,” Moeen said later. “It was a bet, I was just trying to buy a wicket, but of course it didn’t work out. That was when Pakistan won the game.”

Suddenly, Babar was in control, chasing Sam Curran through a thin leg and even munching the fake Adil Rashid over the midwicket with a man’s poison proving a point to those who questioned him. After an unusually lean Asian Cup, Babar is back in the garage.

At 91, Willey swung to the deep midwicket, only for Curran who parried the ball over the rope for six. “Babar, Babar!” the crowd sang in unison, before exploding as he shoved Curran into the covers of the single which made him the first man to hit multiple hundreds of T20Is for Pakistan, just 23 balls after acknowledging cheers for his fifty.

At that point, Rizwan was playing the second violin but couldn’t contain his joy. He threw a punch in the air as he ran to the goalkeeper’s end for a single, then gave him a hug made up of two parts of pride and one part of relief. Karachi rose to celebrate a masterful inning of Lahore’s favorite son.

Three days earlier, Babar had entered the National Stadium press conference room in front of a local media asking for answers for his poor form and criticizing Pakistan’s method, which resembles an endurance test as opposed to the English relay, each batter plays his shots and then passes the baton to the next. He returned with the discreet confidence of a man who knew he had silenced some of them.

“We don’t listen to outsiders who snip,” he said. “There will always be criticism, and if you don’t do well people are waiting to pounce. The fans always support us. In sport every day is different and there are ups and downs. The fans are by your side. The amount of support we got. it was great, regardless of performance. “

This was the fifth time Babar and Rizwan have entered into a partnership of 150 or more. They have opened together on 31 occasions in the T20Is and the connection they have formed is so strong that, at times, they don’t even bother calling each other for racing. “This reflects the level of trust between us,” Babar said.

“We have chased great totals like this in the past,” he added. “We had planned to play according to the situation and planned when to charge and when to hold back. Execution of that plan went brilliantly. When you have a goal in front of you, you play according to that and shift gears accordingly.”

Moeen had no choice but to raise his hands and accept that England had been well beaten. “I know they get a lot of criticism about their strike rates, but I’ve never seen a problem,” she said. “Rizwan came down on a flyer and Babar took some time, but then no one was able to stop him. They are fantastic players.”

When England last toured this country in 2005, Pakistan hadn’t played a single international T20; 17 years later, criticizing the short-form setting has become the national pastime. Time will tell if this method can win a World Cup in Pakistan, but on nights like this it’s hard to believe it’s too bad.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @ mroller98

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