x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Bairstow and Finn show for England adds to Misbah’s woes

Pakistan captain feels pressure of captaincy as England youngsters deliver with bat and ball for 38-run win in second Twenty20 in Dubai.

Steven Finn, right, celebrates with teammates after dismissing Mohammad Hafeez in Dubai on Saturday night. Finn also took the wickets of Umar Akmal and Umar Gul to end with figures of three for 30.
Steven Finn, right, celebrates with teammates after dismissing Mohammad Hafeez in Dubai on Saturday night. Finn also took the wickets of Umar Akmal and Umar Gul to end with figures of three for 30.

DUBAI // If Misbah-ul-Haq was already feeling the heat anyway, then he is probably waking up this morning drenched in sweat and wondering who swapped the air-conditioning unit for an immersion heater.

In most countries, being on a six-game winning streak in Twenty20 internationals would grant a captain a little breathing space. Maybe some credit, even.

Misbah's burner came to an end when his side lost by 38 runs to England on Saturday night, and all of a sudden some people think he should be toast. After one loss in this version of the game. Such is life for any captain of the Pakistan national team.

Misbah is usually the most impassive of characters – he certainly batted like it last night in making 13 from 24 balls. However, he had been uncharacteristically animated in defending himself against his critics.

He reckons some people have an agenda to get him out and Shahid Afridi back as captain. "We just have to get on with it and move forward," he said before the game.

He has a point when he says he should not have a case to answer. He has overseen an uncharacteristically calm rise for Pakistan's Test team over the past 18 months, and in Twenty20 cricket his record has been entirely immaculate. Of the six matches he had led in before last night, Pakistan had won all six.

But the 4-0 defeat Pakistan suffered between their Test series whitewash of England and these T20 matches had got people talking. He had led a steady ship until then, but all the chat has seemingly unsettled his side, judging by their disjointed display at Sports City.

By contrast, Stuart Broad was able to fly under the radar to his second win in four games as England captain.

The all-rounder, who took two wickets of his own, including that of Afridi to seal the win, will have been delighted by the way his side bounced back from their opening night defeat.

England have the two highest ranked batsmen in the world for this format. The second best, Kevin Pietersen, has batted like a prince in pyjamas over the past fortnight, and he looked in sparkling touch again.

However, as in the first match, England could have done with him sticking around longer than the 13 balls it took him to make 17. Ditto Eoin Morgan, the world's best ranked T20 batsman. Upon his arrival at the crease, he smashed two sublime cover-drives for four, but all too quickly was back in the dressing room after falling lbw to Mohammed Hafeez.

The rankings carry a pertinent point about England's batting in 20-over cricket.

Two of their players may occupy the top spots, but there is a huge gap between them and the next best, Craig Kieswetter.

It suggests England have been overly reliant on their two kingpins. When they both went early against Pakistan, the rest had to prove their worth out of necessity.

Cue Jonny Bairstow. Informed Asian cricket supporters already knew of the young Yorkshireman's talents before Saturday night, after he announced himself on his international debut by scoring 41 off 21 balls against India last year.

He hit the ball similarly crisply here, too, on his way to an valuable innings of 60 not out. Even he found his flow stunted by Umar Gul's late-innings nous, however.

Gul's inswinging yorkers won the opening game for Pakistan. So unrelentingly accurate was his length this time around that Bairstow spent more time inspecting the toe of his bat for damage than he did running.

He did enjoy some joy, however, belting the second last ball of the England innings – a Gul slower ball – into the stands, as he inched England up to 150 for seven from their 20 overs.

Pakistan never threatened to chase it, with Graeme Swann once again bringing his influence to bear with two wickets, while Steven Finn took three.