x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Razzaq steals the show

Abdul Razzaq served a reminder that Pakistan have more than one six-hitting all-rounder who can win them matches that are seemingly lost

DUBAI // Abdul Razzaq served a reminder that Pakistan have more than one six-hitting all-rounder who can win them matches that are seemingly lost, by guiding them to a glorious four-wicket triumph over England last night to level the two-match series. He was not necessarily the man the majority had turned out to see at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium. The crowd was appreciably larger than on the opening night of the series, which was due mainly to Shahid Afridi's return after serving a suspension for ball-tampering.

However, after Afridi's match spluttered in direct correlation with Pakistan's waning fortunes, the limelight was left to Razzaq. He did not disappoint, producing an astonishing innings worth 46 from 18 deliveries. The only boundaries he dealt in were sixes, of which he helped himself to five. Until his arrival at the crease, with his side at 78 for five with only seven overs left, Pakistan had looked to be drifting listlessly to another defeat.

Shoaib Malik's acrimonious tour ended in fittingly miserable fashion. The stand-in captain was stumped off a wide from England's off-spinner, Graeme Swann, having toppled off balance at precisely the time the wicketkeeper, Matt Prior, broke the bails. Malik had been the captain in name only. To all intents, his duties started and ended with tossing the coin. For the rest of the time, Afridi was clearly the focal point and leader of the group.

Afridi's name may be mud in the corridors of power in Pakistan, where his ball-biting escapade in Australia apparently brought such great shame. Yet he evidently still inspires the young players in his side as well as his legion of Pathan supporters in the stands. Despite the excitement over his return, Afridi's performance was underwhelming. His bowling rarely threatened, he grassed Kevin Pietersen, and when he then fell for eight, Pakistan appeared to have a mountain to climb.

Razzaq's subsequent assault was all the more remarkable given that the winning habit was so long forgotten for Pakistan. This was their first success in 10 matches in all cricket. Given the mood that will be pervading their dressing room now they will feel a defence of their World Twenty20 crown is within their means. Before then, the night had belonged to Pietersen. After sharing in an English record partnership with the towering Hampshire batsman in the opening win over Pakistan, Eoin Morgan had not been specific about what he meant when he said: "The destruction capabilities are endless."

If he meant the windows in the corporate boxes of the top tier are in danger, then Pietersen almost proved his point straight away. Buoyed by his previous knock, Pietersen found top gear with a brutal 62 from 40 balls to hoist his team to 148 from their 20 overs. He went to his half century in 28 balls, but he used a life before getting there. When he was on 46 he blazed a drive at Afridi off the bowling of Umar Gul, but the returning all-rounder shelled the chance.

All three of his sixes went straight back over the bowlers' heads, the first of which went soaring over the Royal Box at the Sports City end. Ajmal Shahzad, the Yorkshire all-rounder, had then cemented England's advantage by taking two wickets in his first over in international cricket. There only seemed one winner at that point, but no one foresaw the Razzaq induced carnage that was to follow. pradley@thenational.ae