Player of the Match
Player of the Match

Rashid the spark for England before Buttler, Salt dismantle chase

Jofra Archer celebrates the wicket of Babar Azam Getty Images

England 158 for 3 (Salt 45, Rauf 3-38) beat Pakistan 157 (Usman 38, Livingstone 2-17, Rashid 2-27, Wood 2-35) by seven wickets

There wasn't much to separate these two sides when they met in the last T20 World Cup final, but in the final T20I before that tournament's next edition kicks off, the gap between the two is positively chasmic. A disciplined, all-round bowling performance from England, followed by a brutal barrage of top-order hitting from openers Jos Buttler and Phil Salt saw England crush Pakistan by 7 wickets with 27 balls to spare, and claim a 2-0 series win.

How the game started under overcast skies wasn't quite a harbinger of the overwhelming dominance England would eventually establish. Babar Azam and Mohammad Rizwan, who opened the batting for the first time this year, got Pakistan off to a steady start in the first four overs before finishing the powerplay strongly; the 59 they managed was Pakistan's second-highest powerplay score since January. But England struck back with five wickets for 27 runs either side of a brief rain break, spearheaded by Adil Rashid.

Brief, happy-go-lucky resistance from Usman Khan - whose 21-ball 38 bolstered Pakistan when they were in danger of crumpling - kept hopes of a competitive target alive for long enough. But Liam Livingstone, who England utilised to perfection in the middle overs, prised him out thanks to a stunning catch from Chris Jordan, and Pakistan eventually folded for 157.

There was a suspicion it wasn't quite enough, but England's openers made a mockery of the idea it was ever even in doubt. Mohammad Amir was leathered for 16 in his first over, Naseem Shah pulverised for 25. England scored 78 in the Powerplay, their highest since they managed 82 in Lahore against the same opposition in 2022. And though Haris Rauf restored some respectability to the score with three wickets in a fiery, spirited spell, the hosts wouldn't even let him have the last laugh, with Harry Brook clobbering him for six over cover to seal a statement-making win before their World Cup defence begins.

Rashid triggers collapse

Rizwan and Babar had given Pakistan a platform, but what happened off the final ball of the powerplay was more significant than anything that went before. The Pakistan captain edged one to short third, which Rashid held on to. The openers have often been accused of slowing down after the powerplay, so when Rashid breached Rizwan's defences next over, the middle order had their platform laid out for them. But Fakhar Zaman holed out as Rashid took a sharp catch during a passage of play when he simply couldn't be kept out of the game. He returned to clean up Shadab Khan first ball, with Mark Wood's sheer pace sending Azam Khan packing for a five-ball duck. His nightmare was only just beginning.

Livingstone's bowling heroics

Every time Livingstone was thrown the ball by Buttler, it seemed like the time for Pakistan to sneak in a big over. And yet, the spinner found a way to bowl perfect lines to perfectly set fields; the big shot never quite seemed to be on. But not content with being milked for 16 in his first two, Livingstone bowled the most impactful over of the game in the 15th, sending down a double-wicket maiden. Pakistan's top-scorer Usman holed out to Jordan before Shaheen Afridi smeared at one that eventually hit his stumps. By the time Livingstone was done, the last dregs of Pakistan's batting resistance had been stomped out of them.

The onslaught

On a wicket as true as this, surely Pakistan's pace quartet would find a way to keep England honest, right? Right?
Wrong. Shaheen and Naseem might have been slightly unlucky to concede 18 without reward in the first two, but everything that followed was a one-sided drubbing. Even the pace of the wicket played in the batters' favour, the touch and timing of Buttler and Salt meaning caresses flew to the boundary. Pakistan's bowlers, flustered and harried, found their lengths wavering and their pace one-dimensional. It was only too easy for England's openers to take full advantage.

Azam's day out

Azam receiving a snorter of a short ball he wasn't mobile enough to evade was just the start of his horror day. With his credentials as a middle-order batter severely diminished by his stint in the side, his status as their wicketkeeper also took a battering. Stationed there only because he can't be hidden elsewhere, he dropped two straightforward chances off an otherwise impressive Rauf, with his embarrassment so palpable it was borderline uncomfortable viewing. When he eventually did grasp a straightforward catch, Rizwan jogged up to give him a pat on the back. You would imagine it isn't long before Rizwan is stood there permanently again.

England 2nd innings Partnerships

1st82JC ButtlerPD Salt
2nd19JC ButtlerWG Jacks
3rd11JM BairstowWG Jacks
4th46JM BairstowHC Brook