x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

England stumble in Dubai Twenty20

Pakistan paceman Umar Gul takes three wickets to lead his team to an eight-run win in the first of three matches. Audio interviews

Shahid Afridi celebrates taking the important wicket of Kevin Pietersen in Dubai on Thursday night.
Shahid Afridi celebrates taking the important wicket of Kevin Pietersen in Dubai on Thursday night.

DUBAI // So Pakistan have not completely forgotten what it is like to win, after all. After a collective bout of short-term amnesia caused them to play like one-day paupers, they returned to their Dubai throne as Twenty20 kings last night.

While some people reckoned it was long-sleeved shirts which caused England's demise in the Test series, Pakistan were probably looking to ditch their green ones.

They were so bad in the one-day international series which preceded these three Twenty20s, that the Test matches which came before that seem like they never happened. And Pakistan were supposed to be the limited-overs specialists.

The source of inspiration behind their rebirth last night was a usual suspect. Umar Gul dragged his side across the winning line, even though they had not played especially well, with a typically shrewd spell of death bowling.

His three wickets for 18 essentially won the game for Pakistan. He clearly knows his way around this ground. He once took four for eight in a Twenty20 match against Australia at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. England had seemed set fair for a fifth straight win in the coloured clothing before Gul's intervention, all thanks to Graeme Swann, another bowler who has form at this ground.

At the start of the game, everything revolved around England's off-spinner. First he shelled a swirling catch offered by Asad Shafiq, the pocket-sized Pakistan batsman. Soon after, he just about managed to exact a run out of the same player. Then he took three wickets, including that of Shahid Afridi, who most people had come to watch.

Swann was named the player of the brief, two-match Twenty20 series these sides played over the course of one weekend in Dubai in 2010. He obviously likes it here. His figures of three for 13 from his four overs here were one run better than those he returned in the second match two years ago.

Paul Collingwood, the England captain back then, said he would love to play at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium when it was full, given the atmosphere it created when only a third of it was populated.

It was still not full to capacity last night, but this was comfortably the biggest attendance of the series. Seventy per cent full represents a triumph here.

The crowds who had so depressingly stayed away for the Tests and one-day internationals apparently all decided late in the day that they fancied this one.

That caused problems of its own, as it meant the few access roads to the ground were chock-a-block, and many resorted to ditching their cars by the side of Emirates Road and walked up instead.

Once they all found their way inside, the atmosphere they created should have been uplifting. Pakistan's batsmen, however, seemed to find it a burden, except for Shoaib Malik, the Dubai resident, who hauled his side to 144 for six from their 20 overs. But thanks to Gul, that just about proved enough.

pradley@thenational.ae

Audio courtesy of Dubai Sports City.