Suit vs Scary 2022 – 4th T20I

A defender ran in from mid-forward, jumped off his feet and threw the stumps under his armpits. Zing bail flared with Reece Topley miles off his ground and Karachi’s sold-out National Stadium was drowned in noise.

Thousands of players had rolled out when England needed nine runs out of 12 balls, but rushed back to check out the celebrations as Pakistan placed the series ahead of their last three games in Lahore. The stadium announcer identified the winger as Shan Masood, causing another huge applause from the stands.

What a difference 20 overs can make. With 10 balls left in the first inning, Masood had been pinned to the pad by David Willey for a meticulous 21 out of 19 balls and suffered the latest shame in T20 cricket – his own supporters celebrated his dismissal.

Pakistan had spent the night preparing for take-off but, despite the best efforts of Masood and Mohammad Rizwan – who both played with intention but little power or timing – were unable to get off the launch pad. Alex Hales’ unsuccessful attempt to take a hold when Masood was 3 out of 7 ended up being to England’s advantage.
The atmosphere during the final stages of Pakistan’s inning was close to mutiny, but with good reason. Each wicket meant an opportunity for a middle-tier power hitter to come in and swing, and the crowd – the loudest in the series so far – felt reduced from the build-up. Somehow, Asif Ali was only allowed three balls; he responded by hitting two by six.
It’s only been three nights since Rizwan and Babar Azam chased a 200-run target as panthers in the wild, waiting for the right moment to attack and catching their prey in the form of offshoots of Moeen Ali. But on Sunday, their combined contribution of 124 out of 95 balls raised familiar doubts about their approach, however harsh they might seem.
England’s chase was a complete contrast – they lost three wickets in the first two overs, enough to doom most teams to defeat, but Ben Duckett, Harry Brook and Moeen responded to make sure the required rate didn’t escape. never out of hand.
Wickets fell at regular intervals but, with 33 needed out of 18 balls and only three wickets in hand, Liam Dawson continued to swing: he hit Mohammad Hasnain for 23 points in four legitimate deliveries, as if to underline the extent of the batting depth of the ‘England. But with five needed out of 10 balls, they lost their last three wickets for a single run.

This was an evening that posed a fundamental question for T20 cricket: how much is a wicket worth? It seemed obvious that the Pakistani batters had placed too high a value on theirs, but the English ones were sold at too low a price. Both nations have experienced significant inflation this year, but the price of a wicket is more volatile than any currency.

This series has lined up teams with contrasting styles against each other: Pakistan’s best orders see 20 overs as a test of endurance, proud to get as close to the finish as possible; English batters are like relay teams, each reaching top speed as quickly as possible before passing the baton to teammate.

In the four Karachi games, England scored 9.44 an over and lost a wicket for every 21.5 balls; for Pakistan, the figures are 8.61 and 25.1 respectively. England are a strong batting formation with a vulnerable bowling attack; Pakistan is a strong bowling team with a vulnerable batting lineup.

Clearly, the game plans of both teams are informed by the players they have at their disposal. “We beat incredibly deeply,” said England manager Matthew Mott. “Let’s go back to that depth and go all the way, but each team evaluates the conditions differently and plays on their strength. They did it perfectly last night, when they chased 200. There are different ways to do it.”

Sport gives its best when teams have clear identities, especially when they clash in this way: think of Pep Guardiola’s long rivalry with Jose Mourinho and the contrast between idealism and pragmatism, or Roger Federer’s grace against tenacity. by Rafael Nadal. Any game would become boring if everyone played the same way.

T20 cricket in 2022 is a sport of order, planning and strategy. Captains and coaches speak in depth about their meticulous preparation and the research behind it. Players have access to video footage of each opponent, and analytics is not just part of the game, but an industry in itself.

But that Sunday night, when Masood got up from the ground and was attacked by his teammates, with the cheering of the crowd ringing in his ears, he was able to reflect on a truth behind the drama. This format, like any other, is at its best when it descends into pure and genuine chaos.


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