Before we talk about the actual cricket, we should probably take a moment to congratulate ourselves on the general success that was our live blogging of last night’s game. We’re more than happy to hold our hands up when we do stuff badly (our shambolic preview for this series being exhibit A) but we reckon it worked pretty well, with almost no major spelling errors and very few libellous statements about Steve Smith. If you weren’t there with us, perhaps because you live in a country that has crazy futuristic time zones or perhaps because you were sleeping off those cans of Special Brew in the park, you missed out big time. Or, as they’d say in Australia, “where the bloody hell were you?”
Anyway, we may well repeat the experiment for tomorrow’s game, if we can figure out which button makes it happen. If you could all just loiter around the site beforehand, maybe pressing F5 a lot, it’d probably help.
This was a curious performance from Pakistan, one that lurched from good stuff to bad stuff and back again. They got an excellent start, with Awais Zia batting like he had a train to catch before Asad Shafiq and Mohammad Hafeez built a solid platform. Then came a collapse (albeit partially due to some good bowling and fielding from England). Shahid Afridi played a dumb shot before Umar Akmal played an even dumber one and suddenly Pakistan looked in trouble. However, two of their more experienced players, Misbah-ul-Haq and Shoaib Malik, played very sensibly, rebuilding the innings up to a probably slightly below par total of 144.
With the ball they started badly – Junaid Khan seemed to have no idea of what he was doing at the crease – but turned it around thanks to their trio of spinners. Mohammad Hafeez was probably the star of the show, proving almost impossible to get away as England failed to accelerate into the end of their chase. Umar Gul also made a return to form after an ODI series in which he could be politely described as ‘crap’.
So near yet so far for England. After a poor start, the bowlers were excellent throughout the middle of Pakistan’s innings. Graeme Swann in particular bowled beautifully, conceding just 13 runs from his four overs (and also picking up three wickets and a run out). He wasn’t so good in the field though, dropping an absolute sitter early on. Stuart Broad also bowled very well, although he did go wicketless. The other bowlers were generally okay, although not brilliant; Finn in particular failed to reach the heights of the ODI series.
We should probably pass comment on the catching as well. Bar Swann’s aberration – he was probably distracted by concerns about a cat being stuck under some floorboards – the catching was excellent. Jade Dernbach took a beauty at long off, while Jonny Bairstow also took a fine sliding catch off the final ball. Having said that, the way his hat fell off to reveal his incredibly ginger hair genuinely made us feel a bit nauseous.
With the bat England got off to a good start and got themselves into a match-winning position at 113/3 with 4.3 overs left. Then Bopara was cleaned up by Umar Gul and suddenly England couldn’t get the ball off the square, Swann’s 2* from seven balls proving particularly painful. England were (mostly) much better against Pakistan’s phalanx of spinners in the ODI series but here they suddenly looked timid and nervous. A few tight overs was all it took and even Junaid Khan’s cackness couldn’t help them in the final over.
We’re expecting a similar sort of game second time around. We wouldn’t be surprised to see Tim Bresnan get a game – you can never have enough fat lads in the lower middle order – although it now seems unlikely that Alex Hales will get into the side. We’d be really annoyed if we were him.
For Pakistan it’ll probably be a case of picking the same team and hoping for the same result. T20 cricket operates on such fine margins that we wouldn’t be surprised if it’s another close one, with England to edge it due to the law of averages.
Regardless of what happens, we’ll definitely be discussing it one way or another. Will it be a live blog thing? Or will it be the constant challenge that is trying to fit the score and a cheap joke about Steve Smith into 140 characters on Twitter? That largely depends on whether we can figure out the live blog thing on our own. So, er, see you on Twitter!