England heads into T20 World Cup title defense with 2-0 series win over Pakistan

LONDON (AP) — England will head into the defense of its T20 World Cup title on the back of a 2-0 series victory over Pakistan after coasting to a seven-wicket win in their fourth and final match at The Oval on Thursday.

After restricting Pakistan to 157 all out, England powered to its target with 27 balls remaining largely thanks to Phil Salt’s 45 and captain Jos Buttler’s 39 in their opening stand of 82 off 38 balls.

Harry Brook (17 not out) saw England home with a six, with Jonny Bairstow in the middle with him on 28 off 16.

Two of the matches in the series were washed out, denting the World Cup preparations of both teams. There were showers around for the series finale in London too, but England and Pakistan played through them — save for 20 minutes during the Pakistan innings when players went off the field.

The tournament staged jointly in the United States and the Caribbean starts Saturday, with England’s opening match against Scotland in Barbados on Tuesday and Pakistan playing for the first time on June 6 against the U.S.

On this evidence, it will be England fighting for the title and not Pakistan.

“There's a good feeling around the squad,” Buttler said, “and they are all stepping up and performing.”

Put into bat, Pakistan went hard early in the rain and reached 59-0 by the final ball of the powerplay — the opening six overs — when Jofra Archer (1-31) removed Babar Azam (36 off 22) in the fit-again fast bowler's second over.

Pakistan lost three wickets in nine balls to slump from 83-2 to 86-5 before going off for rain on 91-5 after 10.4 overs.

On the resumption, Liam Livingstone had a double-wicket maiden, starting with Usman Khan (38) departing to a brilliant diving catch from Chris Jordan at long-on.

England was clinical in the field — Pakistan was dismissed with one ball remaining in its innings — and ruthless with the bat, not least Buttler on his return to the squad after leaving to be present for the birth of his third child early this week.

Buttler hit 84 in the second match of the series, which England won by 23 runs, and smashed seven fours and a six at The Oval as he and Salt raced along at a similar rate.

They were 78-0 after the powerplay, before Salt holed out in the deep to be the first of three wickets for Haris Rauf (3-38 off 3.3 overs).

Will Jacks struck 20 at No. 3 in the order, before Bairstow and Brook — two more big hitters in England's powerful top five — finished off Pakistan.


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