The international cricket season in England came to an end with defeat for the home side in the Twenty20 match against Pakistan at a floodlit Old Trafford yesterday evening (September 7th).
Set a target of 136 to win, Pakistan raced to victory by nine wickets in just 14.5 overs, after England had laboured to 135-7.
England skipper Eoin Morgan had opted to bat after winning the toss and Alex Hales and Jason Roy got the side off to a good start, with Roy hammering a six from the unorthodox bowling of Sohail Tanvir as they reached 53 without loss after six powerplay overs.
However, Pakistan fought back, with clever use of bouncers, slower balls and spin to slow the England rate and pick up a succession of wickets as the home side's big hitters failed to fire. Wahab Riaz was the pick of the bowlers with 3-18 as England struck just one boundary in the second half of the innings.
The last domestic T20 game at Old Trafford had seen Lancashire easily defend a total of only 124, but this was a better batting pitch. Backed by vociferous and voluble support, Pakistan set about chasing their target with relish. Sharjeel Khan struck two boundaries in the opening over from Liam Plunkett, while Khalid Latif smashed four more from Chris Jordan at the other end.
Having got off to such a flying start, Pakistan never lost momentum and when the spinners came on, they were repeatedly hoisted into the stands. Sharjeel made 59 from 36 balls before he skied Adil Rashid to Moeen Ali in the deep to end an opening stand of 107, but Khalid reached an unbeaten 59 from 42 balls as he and Babar Azam sealed victory with 31 balls to spare.
While the final match of the summer had provided a disappointment, England won the overall 'Super Series' against Pakistan by 16-12, thanks to their 4-1 win in the one-day international series following the 2-2 draw in the Tests. Moreover, although Pakistan came back to win the final two matches of the tour, the summer has provided more evidence of England's advancement in limited overs cricket, having also beaten Sri Lanka in both 50-over and 20-over formats.
Fans keen to see more one-day action may wish to book corporate hospitality for next summer's ICC Champions Trophy matches at Edgbaston and the Kia Oval, with England set to be among the favourites for the competition next June.
Before then, the side will tour Bangladesh and India, where they will hope to continue their good one-day form and develop further as a Test side. The emergence of a new top-class spinner will be vital to their chances of success on the subcontinent, as well as providing a major boost to a bowling attack that relies heavily on its excellent seamers.
As well as the ICC Champions Trophy, next summer's cricket in England will see tours by South Africa and the West Indies, who will play four and three Tests respectively.
By Alex Brundell