Monday, October 3, 2022

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Brook hits 81 before Wood wreaks havoc as England beat Pakistan to take a 2-1 lead in the T20 series

Harry Brook played an amazing breakthrough in international innings and Mark Wood achieved the fastest delivery ever recorded by an English bowler to turn Karachi’s Cauldron of Noise into a library last night.

Brooks’ audacious unbeaten 81 from just 35 deliveries helped raise the bar from 24 hours earlier as Pakistan completed a historic first 10-wicket pursuit of a 200-run target in Twenty20 internationals.

And with 221 on the board this time, Wood sensationally unleashed the ferocity of the new balls that England have been sorely missing during their six-month hiatus with an elbow injury.

The 32-year-old wreaked havoc in an opening double volley, matching the 97-mph ball Steve Harmison sent down to Glenn McGrath in the 2006-07 Perth Ashes Test during the second of the two sacked and instigating a spell of four wickets for 11 runs that drowned out Thursday’s noise.

All doubts about a 2-1 result for England with four points to play were dispelled before the end of the power play that ended Pakistan 29 to four.

Fresh off his unbeaten 110, Babar saw a wooden bouncer flash past his nose and then directed the next delivery straight to the third man. Haider Ali was uncomfortably late with another short ball and was saved in the corner.

In between, Mohammad Rizwan was castled by another of England’s three returnees, Reece Topley, and when Sam Curran hit one on his first over, it triggered another deadly crossbar error, this time from Iftikhar Ahmed.

Wood returned to sack Haris Rauf’s wicket on death, finishing with numbers of 4-0-25-3.

Ball dominance during Pakistan’s recent mammoth chase was at odds with what preceded it.

With that commanding touch, Brook just didn’t bowl: Always one step ahead, he read the field and then played with it, weaving the ball through gaps, over the heads of the fielders and five times full force over the boundary rope.

His offbeat stroke play came during an uninterrupted partnership of 139 balls from just 72 with Ben Duckett, the other in-form hitter on the tour. Only on four previous occasions had England finished more than the 221 for three they had stacked up here.

Coming together in the ninth over was luck in itself: Dawid Malan and debutant Will Jacks both walked in disbelief at pulling Gimme Balls into the deep midwicket ahead of Pakistani leg spinner Usman Qadir.

Surrey’s Jacks proved more than a must for Alex Hales at the top of the leaderboard as England began splitting up playing time among the 20-man touring party, adopting the fearless approach to lofting and thrashing recommended in the early stages of the innings accepted gaps during a 22-ball 40.

However, Brook took things to another level. Earlier this year he showed his mastery of those conditions with the second-fastest hundred in the Pakistan Super League, and he showed similar intent when he lofted Qadir for the first six of the innings.

He also showed no ability to discriminate between spin and pace, underscoring his adaptability, hooking his long leg over the rope twice and also hitting right after giving himself space.

The only time the 23-year-old Yorkshire man didn’t seem to put the ball exactly where he wanted it came when he accidentally bounced one of Haris Rauf off his own body and into the grille of his helmet.

Duckett played with the same precision in another great sweep against the Pakistani spinners, and although his own half-century was seven balls slower than the 24 Brook required, the swing was such that Pakistan were tasked with completing their highest yet Chase to top of 208.

Something England’s pioneering work in this area found imaginative. The tourists had planned to hold off Wood until the Lahore leg of this trip but retrieved him five days ahead of schedule to give their attack the pace so badly lacking while trying to edge out Babar and Rizwan in game two .

The inclusion of a left arm used to offer variations for bowling tackles, but this year England have used them as a staple in Twenty20 contracts and although they got away with a trio in the series’ opening game, David Willey, Sam Curran and Luke Wood proved to be involved in the second their similar trajectories and speeds as being equal.

And on a perfect evening for English cricket, it was their two exceptional players who made the difference.

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