In case anybody needed reminding, Pakistan demonstrated yesterday precisely why they are the world champions of Twenty20 cricket. Down and out and facing defeat by England for the second successive day and the third successive match, their veteran all-rounder Abdul Razzaq turned the match on its head.
His unbeaten 46 came from 18 balls and contained five sixes, the last of which completed proceedings from the final ball of the 19th over. In its way, this was Twenty20 cricket at its best because it showed that no match is ever lost and no target too steep.
"There's no shame in losing like that, our two performances have been very, very good here," Paul Collingwood, the England captain, said. "In Twenty20 cricket it only takes one batsman to have an exceptional innings and that's exactly what he [Razzaq] did. It was very hard to bowl at him."
When Pakistan were reduced to 78 for 5 in the 13th over, utterly bamboozled by Graeme Swann whose star is now rising in the east in common with most other locations, England must have supposed that the series was there for the taking. Pakistan's hitter in chief, Shahid Afridi, was gone and while the tail was long it was not interminable.
Razzaq has much previous. As long ago as 2001 he made 75 from 40 balls against England in Karachi, his spectacular innings that night overshadowed by Andrew Flintoff, who responded with 84 from 60 balls. His composure last night was outstanding.
Each of his boundaries was long but if they were struck with power and certainty there was no freneticism. England's bowlers might have erred in length slightly and it was unfair on their debutant, Ajmal Shahzad, to be bowling the 19th over but these are quibbles. Razzaq might have found any length to his liking, Shahzad exhibited enough qualities to indicate he has the right stuff. His first ball in international cricket went for four but he still finished with two wickets in his first over as Pakistan were reduced to 4 for 2.
Razzaq's pyrotechnics rather overshadowed two splendid individual displays by England. Kevin Pietersen's innings of 62 in 40 balls was the batting of a man intent on rehabilitation. His strokes were audacious in selection and execution. Here was the Pietersen of old and it held out the prospect of his returning to his old glories.
Pietersen dominated a second-wicket partnership of 98 with Jonathan Trott, who was never quite at home and is being reminded that big time cricket is no cakewalk.
England would have been content with their score of 148, though Pakistan's bowlers were admirable in the latter stages. Only the 17 runs yielded by the 19th over with sixes for both Collingwood and Luke Wright ensured that the total was serviceable.
It seemed more than that when Pakistan made their daft start, deciding that Shahzad ought to be put in his place early on and discovering that he was decidedly slippery. Swann's four overs for 14 runs were a model of how to bowl in these conditions in this form of the game, the most economical four over spell by an England bowler.
He tested the patience of both Afridi and Umar Akmal, who made the crass mistake of thinking they could hit him into the stands, were deceived in flight and caught on the boundary. Shoaib Malik was stumped with his foot in the air, sharp work by the wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, who may need more where that came from after the addition to the one-day squad for Bangladesh of Craig Kieswetter, in form and selectorial flavour of the month.
But Pakistan deserved to level the series. It is a disgrace that no member of their team, or indeed any Pakistani cricketer, has been offered terms in the Indian Premier League, whose titular description of itself is thereby diminished.Reuse content