A fortnight ago, Kevin Pietersen told the world that the wheel would turn. Since then it has been revolving at the speed of light and last night it showed no sign of slowing up.
Pietersen, out of one-day form for the best part of three years, scored an unblemished and unbeaten 62 from 52 balls which was enough – just – for England to win the third Twenty20 international against Pakistan by five runs in the Sheikh Zayed Stadium and take the series 2-1.
Pakistan, who looked as though they were cantering to victory, needed six to win from the final ball. Their captain, Misbah-ul-Haq, who had somehow surrendered the initiative on a painfully slow pitch, played all round the delivery from Jade Dernbach and was bowled.
It was a fitting end to England's tour of the UAE and it was a deserved reward for a bowling attack that has been outstanding throughout in all forms of the game. Dernbach was nerveless in his last two overs, foxing Pakistan with a litany of devilish slower balls.
Similarly, Stuart Broad, the team's captain, had delivered a quite clinical penultimate over.
"After 10 overs, if we're all honest, it looked like the game was slipping away from us," said Broad. "But the 11 guys on the field were very clear that, if we could get a couple of tight overs in, you can change Twenty20 games just like that."
Broad also mentioned the contributions of Pietersen and Dernbach as key. "KP showed his experience, to know it wasn't going to be a 150-160 wicket. Once we got up to 130, I always thought that was going to be competitive. Jade was fantastic with his final two overs."
It seemed that England's chance might have gone, though, when Broad failed to remove the bails to complete an easy run-out of Umar Gul in the 16th over when only 33 were needed.
But the pitch became less user-friendly for batsmen as the night wore on and England's bowlers are in tip-top form. They simply offered nothing to hit and were relentlessly accurate either in bowling at the stumps or in pitching slower balls sufficiently wide of them to make aggression perilous.
Early on, though, it seemed that the tour might close as it had begun. Saeed Ajmal, torturer in chief of England for two long months, gleefully turned the thumbscrew, not to mention the doosra, one final time. But this time he ran into a Pietersen who had taken a crash course in reading him.
If anything, Ajmal has warmed more to his task as the three series of Tests, one-day internationals and Twenty20s have unfolded. On the first morning of the first match he announced himself to England's top order and by lunch had brought them to their knees. On the final night he refused to relent, taking wickets in each of his four overs and once more instilling fatal doubts.
However, there came one crucial piece of resistance. Pietersen's rediscovered mastery has made interpreting everybody else straightforward and as a result he is a man transformed. His 62 not out, his seventh T20 fifty, bestrode England's innings. By now, Pietersen has eminently justified the decision to move him to open the innings in both forms of the limited- overs game. In the past three weeks he has become the assertive batsman of old and although there was little flamboyance on display last night it was in its way flawless.
He seemed to have decided early on what total might give England a fighting chance of securing the series on a slow pitch designed for nagging spin bowlers. Together with Craig Kies-wetter he provided a rapid start while the ball was still hard and then ensured he kept his wicket intact, failing to score off only 18 balls and hitting the last six of the innings, a big shot in a low-scoring match.
To everybody else, Ajmal was as threatening as ever. But it was not to be enough. Pakistan had a flying start but were then arrested in the middle part of their innings. Only Steve Finn lacked a cutting edge for England but the others were wonderful. There were a few unusual fielding lapses and Jonny Bairstow's in the penultimate over might have been costly – but England held their nerve, and their patience.
Abu Dhabi scoreboard
Third Twenty20 match, Sheikh Zayed Stadium: England win by five runs and the series 3-0
England won toss
K P Pietersen not out 62
52 balls 1 six 6 fours
†C Kieswetter c Malik b Ajmal 17
17 balls 1 six 1 four
R S Bopara c Akmal b Cheema 1
E J G Morgan run out 9
J M Bairstow b Ajmal 3
J C Buttler lbw b Ajmal 7
S R Patel st Akmal b Ajmal 16
10 balls 1 six 1 four
*S C J Broad not out 6
Extras (lb1 w7) 8
Total (for 6, 20 overs) 129
Fall: 1-29, 2-37, 3-62, 4-72, 5-89, 6-109.
Did not bat: G P Swann, J W Dernbach, S T Finn.
Bowling: Mohammad Hafeez 4-0-22-0, Aizaz Cheema 4-0-25-1, Umar Gul 4-0-39-0, Saeed Ajmal 4-0-23-4, Shahid Afridi 4-0-19-0.
Awais Zia lbw b Swann 23
28 balls 1 six 1 four
Mohammad Hafeez c & b Dernbach 0
Asad Shafiq run out 34
32 balls 3 fours
* Misbah-ul-Haq b Dernbach 28
32 balls 2 fours
†Umar Akmal c Swann b Broad 22
23 balls 1 four
Shahid Afridi run out 3
Hammad Azam not out 2
Extras (lb7 w5) 12
Total (for 6, 20 overs) 124
Fall: 1-8, 2-48, 3-76, 4-113, 5-120, 6-124.
To bat: Shoaib Malik, Umar Gul, Saeed Ajmal, Aizaz Cheema.
Bowling: S T Finn 4-0-31-0, J W Dernbach 4-0-24-2, S C J Broad 4-0-24-1, S R Patel 4-0-18-0, G P Swann 4-0-20-1.
Umpires: Shozab Raza (Pak) and Zameer Haider (Pak).
Pakistan v England T20 in figures
12: Graeme Swann's bowling strike rate, the best in the Twenty 20 series
100: Runs conceded by Steven Finn in his 12 overs in the series
4-23: Saeed Ajmal's bowling figures yesterday, his second best return in a T20 international
112: Runs scored by Kevin Pietersen, the most in the series
129: Lowest total England have successfully defended in a T20 internationalReuse content