DUBAI // Eoin Morgan gave a taster of what could lie ahead in the forthcoming Indian Premier League (IPL) as his sumptuous half-century took England to a seven-wicket win over Pakistan in the opening Twenty20 international. The Dubliner was in a very small minority of England players who attracted interest at the last IPL auction, when he was snapped up by Royal Challengers Bangalore. The US$206,219 (Dh757,466) Vijay Mallya spent on him looks a bargain on the evidence of his scintillating 51-ball 67, which saw England over the line with nine balls to spare. He finished it in style, clubbing Umar Gul for the biggest six yet seen in the 11 months the Dubai International Cricket Stadium has been operational. That earned him a massive bear-hug from Kevin Pietersen at the other end, and Morgan's batting partner also had his own reasons to be cheerful. Pietersen hinted that a return to top form is imminent as he made an evenly-timed 43. The former England captain arrived on these shores on the back of a difficult tour of South Africa, which had followed a long spell out through injury. He subsequently sought out the advice of the coach who first gave him his break in the England side, at the start of the 2005 Ashes, Duncan Fletcher. The Cape Town-based coach promised to analyse his former charge's technique via the TV coverage of these two Twenty20 internationals in Dubai. Judging by this performance, Pietersen's method is in fine working order. Other than when Morgan peppered the crowd, there had been a relatively muted atmosphere inside Sports City, especially when set against the last game here. Six days earlier, 6,000 Afghans nearly lifted the tented roof-off the grandstand cheering their side on to World Twenty20 qualification. The moderate turn out was probably due in part to the poor recent form of the Pakistan side, but more so due to the lack of star quality in their line-up. For varying reasons, Mohammed Yousuf, Younus Khan, Mohammed Aamer and Mohammed Asif have all missed the trip to the UAE. Those that did make it to the stadium also had to make-do with a merely brief glimpse of the No 1 crowd-favourite, Shahid Afridi. The all-rounder joined in with Pakistan's pre-match warm-ups, even though he was unavailable to play as he served out the final game of his suspension for ball-tampering. In his absence from the playing XI, the Pakistanis were a rudderless ship. Shoaib Malik, the stand-in captain, was clear over his reluctance to lead the side, and his players seemed equally reticent about following him. At least he tried his best to deliver on his promise to contribute with the bat. He top scored with 33, but then fell limply, shovelling a catch to Paul Collingwood off Graeme Swann. After his side had limped to 129 for eight from their 20 overs, Malik was powerless to halt the victory charge from Morgan and Pietersen, whose unbroken 112-run alliance was the highest by an England pair in this format. firstname.lastname@example.org
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