Imperious Pietersen earns England series win

 

Kevin Pietersen's continued good form helped England to a thrilling five-run victory and 2-1 Twenty20 series success over Pakistan to conclude their tough tour of the United Arab Emirates tonight.

Pietersen's unbeaten 62 underpinned only a vulnerable 129 for six, and although Pakistan looked sure to complete the chase with ease at one stage, England's bowlers dug in to sneak the spoils.

Saeed Ajmal's four for 23, and the economical back-up spin of Mohammad Hafeez and Shahid Afridi, stalled England's momentum after Stuart Broad chose to bat first on an awkward surface at the Zayed Stadium.

Their total lacked a double-figure score between numbers three and six as Ajmal, their scourge throughout here, finished his eight weeks' work with 39 wickets.

It was only in company with fellow opener Craig Kieswetter and then Samit Patel that Pietersen managed to dominate, but he nonetheless hit six fours and a six from 52 balls.

He alone struck the ball with any regularity and authority as England's batsmen struggled to cope with conditions, and it transpired he had done just enough to help finish an arduous trip on a high.

It was clear Pakistan did not have an easy chase, but knowing their target and that England had only eight overs of frontline spin seemed a major advantage.

Hafeez was caught-and-bowled by Jade Dernbach for a first-ball duck in the second over, and Awais Zia was unluckily lbw to a delivery from Graeme Swann which turned very sharply from round the wicket but pitched outside leg.

Asad Shafiq's sensible batting got Pakistan within striking distance, though, by the time he was run out unable to scamper an unwise second to deep midwicket.

Two other run-out opportunities evaded England, Zia and Umar Akmal the men to survive.

But Akmal and Misbah-ul-Haq's pursuit then ran out out steam as Broad in particular put the squeeze on, and the Pakistan captain was last out for 28, bowled by Dernbach trying in vain to heave the six needed from the final ball of the innings.

Kieswetter and Pietersen had got England off to a handy start for the third match running, until the former was well-caught at wide long-on by Shoaib Malik in Ajmal's first over.

Kieswetter was already responsible for clubbing 12 runs, culminating in a straight six, from Umar Gul's first three deliveries.

But neither Ravi Bopara nor Eoin Morgan could get started.

Bopara edged a very good ball from Aizaz Cheema to diving wicketkeeper Akmal.

Then Morgan's nightmare tour ended with one of his worst innings. He somehow managed an acceptable nine from 11 balls, but could easily have been out twice as he mistimed or simply missed before a mix-up with Pietersen saw him run out, sent back for a single.

Jonny Bairstow, hero of the series-levelling win in Dubai two days ago, was also all at sea in the desert this time as Ajmal and Afridi took control.

Ajmal bowled Bairstow, trying to cut the wrong ball. But it was Afridi who dried up the runs most effectively, as England failed to score from 12 of the 24 balls the leg-spinner bowled.

Pietersen lost the strike, facing only 14 of 40 deliveries at one stage, and - until Patel joined him - it was all too much for a succession of new men to the wicket.

Patel struck 12 runs, again including a straight six, from the first three balls of Ajmal's last over. But the off-spinner had the last word, when Patel was stumped, and even Pietersen could not get England significantly above six-an-over until Cheema served him a full-toss which disappeared over midwicket for a maximum from the last ball of the innings.

It was to prove a crucial blow too, one Misbah was singularly unable to match when his team needed it two hours later.

PA

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