Buttler, Archer star as England take series lead at Edgbaston

A complete bowling performance, following Jos Buttler’s 84, helped England take 1-0 lead in the four-match T20I series against Pakistan. Put in to bat in Birmingham, after a washout in Leeds earlier this week, captain Buttler headlined England’s 183/6 which seemed sub-par at the halfway mark after a death-overs meltdown. Pakistan, however, had a poor start to the chase, and slipped up again on the other side of the half-century stand between Fakhar Zaman and Babar Azam to be shot down for 160 in 19.2 overs.

After a quiet couple of overs, the England openers smacked three boundaries off Shaheen Afridi to force the pacer out of the attack but Imad struck with his very first ball of the game to remove big-hitting Phil Salt for just 13. Will Jacks then joined hands with Buttler to forge a vital 71-run partnership for the second wicket. He got going in the penultimate powerplay over, hitting two boundaries and a six off Haris Rauf to steal 17 off him. England managed a decent 53/1 from the powerplay and the English skipper then switched gears, welcoming Shasab Khan with a four and closing the over with a slogsweep over cow corner for a maximum. After a 14-run opening over, the leggie leaked 17 in his next as Buttler raced towards his half-century.

England had a soild platform of 96/1 at the halfway mark but the drinks break sucked their momentum as Rauf returned to the attack and got the better of Jacks first ball. The wicket slowed England down even as Buttler kept finding the odd six an over. He was aided by a couple of handy cameos from Jonny Bairstow – 21 off 18 – that took England to the verge of 150 in the 16th over but a couple of quick wickets helped Pakistan claw back. Bairstow and Harry Brook departed in the space of five deliveries, leaving England at 147/4. Shaheen Afridi triggered another mini collapse in the death overs as the hosts went from 164/4 to 169/7 with the speedstar claiming two including the all important scalp of Buttler on 84.

Pakistan conceded only 39 runs in the final five overs, 14 of which came in the last one alone as the returning Jofra Archer struck a four and a six to take the home side to a respectable 183/7 whereas they looked set for at least 200 at one stage.

However, the visitors had a forgettable start to the chase with the bat as Mooen got England a breakthrough with just the third delivery. The in-form Mohammad Rizwan fell for a duck, trying to hack the spinner across the line. Moeen burnt a review on Saim Ayub in his following over but the opener didn’t last long thereafter, caught at deep backward square trying to pull Reece Topley.

Fakhar Zaman though had different plans, and he wasted no time in launching the counterattack for the remainder of the over saw a flurry of boundaries. After conceding just four in his first-two, even Moeen’s third went for 17 runs as Zaman and Babar went on the offensive to stitch a half-century stand. Zaman was the aggressor, smacking a six and a four off Archer in his very first over to help Pakistan finish the powerplay strong on 55/2.

Once the fielding restrictions were off, Buttler took the punt and decided to bowl out Mooen and the allrounder did not disappoint. Back into the attack, he trapped Babar LBW on 32 and even a review couldn’t save the Pakistan skipper. Pakistan’s chase unraveled from thereon even as Zaman hit a monstrous six in retaliation. Adil Rashid had Shadab Khan holing out in the deep and Archer ended Azam Khan’s brief little cameo on 11 at the start of the 12th over. Zaman went down fighting, welcoming Liam Livingstone into the attack with a six but eventually spooning a simple catch to long-on five away from what would have been a deserving half-century.

Imad and Iftikhar Ahmed also launched a counter attack, hammering three sixes and as many fours between them to take 18 off the Rashid over and 16 in Topley’s, though the pacer put an end to the fireworks. Rather, it was Iftikhar who threw away a perfect start, slogging one high in the air for long-on to settle under and complete a match-winning catch. Archer took out the other set batter to put the final nail in the coffin. Pakistan lost the final two quickly thereafter, folding with four balls to spare.

Brief scores: England 183/7 in 20 overs (Jos Buttler 84, Will Jacks 37; Shaheen Afridi 3-36, Imad Wasim 2-19) beat Pakistan 160 all out in 19.2 overs (Fakhar Zaman 45, Babar Azam 32; Moeen ali 2-26, Reece Topley 3-41, Jofra Archer 2-28) by 23 runs

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