World Twenty20: England's Danny Briggs proves to be trouble and strife for Pakistan
England 111 Pakistan 96-9 (England win by 15 runs)
So far, Danny Briggs has been notable as the first cricketer from the Isle of Wight to play for England. His credentials for distinction may soon be extended.
He has now become the first cricketer from the Isle of Wight to delay his wedding because of playing for England and on the evidence here in Colombo he may well have to postpone a multitude of other social engagements over the next few years for similar reasons. Briggs took 3 for 15 as England somehow defended a miserable total of 111 all out to defeat Pakistan by 15 runs in their second and final warm-up match before setting out to defend their World Twenty20 title. Having beaten Australia by nine runs earlier in the week they should enter the tournament proper, which they begin with a tricky little encounter against Afghanistan tomorrow, in good heart.
The result on this occasion was everything for it demonstrated that England, despite exhibiting their traditional deficiencies in the sub-continent, have regained their steel.
It helped that Pakistan batted hopelessly as well, though the pitch at the P Sara Stadium where England won a famous Test victory in April, should also have faced stern interrogation about what on earth it thought it was doing. Twenty20 was not invented so that it could be stifled on surfaces such as this which granted too many favours to spin and seam.
England should have made at least 20 more, but were again undone by their regular nemesis, Saeed Ajmal. The old sorcerer merely resumed where he left off against England at the start of the year, by utterly confounding them.
He took 4 for 14 in four overs as England lost their last five wickets in eight balls. For Eoin Morgan, newly restored to England's Test squad, it was the recurrence of a nightmare.
Ajmal had him in knots during England's matches against Pakistan, played in the UAE last winter, and nothing has changed. Morgan obligingly cut one that skidded on into the wicketkeeper's hands.
By the time Ajmal cleaned up the tail with three more wickets, lasting damage had already been inflicted. But he deceived Jos Buttler with a beauty that was held back and was altogether too much for Stuart Broad and Steve Finn.
Only Luke Wright assembled something substantial with 38 from 36 balls. There were no fireworks and only four boundaries but to say that he did not look out of place at No 3 is not to damn with faint praise.
Briggs, 21, lost nothing by comparison with the master. He opened the bowling and struck with his sixth ball to have Mohammad Hafeez caught on the mid-wicket boundary by which time he should already have had him stumped, only for Craig Kieswetter to muff an elementary chance.
There was control, turn and authority in reasonably equal measure and while nothing at all should be assumed about the future direction of Briggs's career – he is not yet on the Test radar – it is always welcome to see left-arm spin operating. He was supposed to have been married on 30 September but the ceremony has been postponed until mid-October because of this tournament. That still means he must miss the qualifying rounds of the Champions League T20 with Hampshire but he will play in the later stages if the county make it that far. "It's so busy with the cricket you never know where you're going to be," he said.
For Briggs's information, he will spend the next three weeks – all being well – in Sri Lanka, perhaps go to South Africa for the Champions League in mid-October and thence to India with the Performance Squad shadowing England's Test tour in November and December. And he will be expected to go on honeymoon sometime as well.
"It is difficult adapting to Sri Lankan conditions but I think this week has been good for that," said Briggs.
Adapting to conditions here means more than using the pitch. For bowlers it can be difficult to keep hands dry given the humidity. Briggs, bless him, had thought of this.
"A towel is useful and keep your hands to the ground the whole time to keep them dry," he said. This boy should go far.
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