x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Kevin Pietersen sends England away with a spring in their step

The man of the series, and the decider, sets up the victory over Pakistan with a knock of 62 in a thrilling five-run victory in Abu Dhabi. Audio interviews

Jade Dernbach celebrates dismissing Mohammad Hafeez.
Jade Dernbach celebrates dismissing Mohammad Hafeez.

ABU DHABI // The UAE's cricket supporters were treated to a last-ball thriller in the deciding Twenty20 international, as England beat Pakistan by five runs at the Zayed Cricket Stadium last night.

Given that top-flight international cricket is unlikely to return to these shores for the foreseeable future, it will have to keep them going for a while yet.

It is fair to say the result was the wrong one for the majority among the boisterous congregation in the capital.

The crowd was unmistakably partisan towards Pakistan, and their boys looked as though they were cruising to victory for much of this game.

Yet with England's bowlers strangling the life out of the chase in the final overs, aided by a pitch that was slower than a Skoda with no wheels, Pakistan botched the chase.

As galling as it was to watch Misbah-ul-Haq, Pakistan's captain, fumble badly over the final overs, only one batsmen got to grips with a tricky surface all night.

Jade Dernbach and Stuart Broad may have closed out the game for England, Kevin Pietersen was undoubtedly their match-winner.

He will head to Sri Lanka next month for the next leg of England's winter travels with a significantly bouncier stride than he would have managed had this tour stopped after the Test matches.

It seems remarkable to recall exactly how out of sorts he was back then, given the form he has shown since pulling on the blue kit.

Pietersen made 62 off 52 balls, including a six off the final ball of the innings which dragged England to 129 for six.

Other than that, it was lean pickings for everyone.

With a pitch that suited him perfectly, Saeed Ajmal ended the tour in the exact same fashion he started it, bewitching England's batsmen and picking up four wickets. The spinner has accounted for 39 English wickets across all three platforms in the just under two months it is since he arrived on these shores.

Not everyone has emerged in credit from their trip to the UAE. Following his struggles in the long format at the start of this tour, Eoin Morgan will be concerned for his place when England announced their Test squad for their trip to Sri Lanka at 9.30am this morning.

The Dublin-born batsman has endured a miserable trot in the UAE, and has not even been able to break the gloom in the format he is best known for.

Morgan is the world's best Twenty20 batsman, according to the ICC rankings

Anyone would have thought Pietersen, who trails him in second, had designs on his position, given the way he saw him off with a "yes, no, sorry" run out last night.

With mates like that, Morgan would have needed a run spree to emerge in credit from this tour, not one that lacked any score above 31 in 17 trips to the wicket.

It was that sort of night for England's batsmen.

Craig Kieswetter hit a sweet six, then succumbed to an excellent tumbling catch on the boundary by Shoaib Malik while trying to repeat the dose.

The fact Ravi Bopara fell victim to a fine catch at the wicket by Umar Akmal meant his luck must have been out.

Akmal struggles with simple catches. Blinding diving efforts are clearly more his thing.

Jonny Bairstow went cheaply. Jos Buttler capped a nightmare tour with a seven that might not have been so bad had he not used up 13 balls in getting it.

Samit Patel's stay was all too brief.

Yet Pakistan found it even tougher to score, as England's slow bowlers, Patel and Graeme Swann, applied the squeeze with dexterity in the middle overs.

When Misbah, whose 28 from 32 balls was far too slow for the circumstances, was last out, England had managed to edge a tour that had a second series win to finish a tour which started with them on the wrong end of a whitewash.

pradley@thenational.ae