England thrash Pakistan to gear up for the T20 World Cup in style

England signed off for the World Cup with a win over Pakistan (Action Images via Reuters)
England signed off for the World Cup with a win over Pakistan (Action Images via Reuters)

England put the frustrations of a wet World Cup warm-up behind them by putting Pakistan to the sword in an seven-wicket cruise at the Oval.

Having seen games in Leeds and Cardiff washed out entirely, a clinical display with bat and ball ensured the defending champions head to the Caribbean on the back of a 2-0 series victory, their first in T20s since winning that title in Australia at the end of 2022.

The reunited opening partnership of Babar Azam and Mohammed Rizwan had got Pakistan off to a strong start, racing to 59 without loss inside six overs, but the tourists stumbled badly against the spin of Adil Rashid and Liam Livingstone.

That pair took two wickets apiece either side of a short rain delay as Pakistan were eventually skittled for 157 with one ball of the innings to spare, England going on to chase a sub-par total in just 15.3 overs.

A lively Oval crowd, not witness to a men’s T20I in a decade, were treated to some brutal hitting from England’s openers, Jos Buttler and Phil Salt sharing a blistering 82-run stand that at one stage included six boundaries in succession.

Back in the camp having dashed home for the birth of his third child, Buttler backed up his 84 at Edgbaston on Saturday with 39 from 20 balls here, England’s key batter seemingly back close to his best ahead of a tournament that may well decide whether he continues as captain.

Salt, meanwhile, again showed his ultra-aggressive streak as the ideal foil for Buttler’s calm, hitting eight boundaries in his 45 from 25 balls. He, too, will go into next Tuesday’s opener against Scotland feeling good about life, particularly since his last trip to the Caribbean before Christmas included hundreds in back-to-back games.

England were helped, it must be said, by two horrible drops from Azam Khan behind the stumps, first of Salt on 34 and then Will Jacks on eight. Equally, though, the hosts might have romped home more emphatically had it not been for a defiant middle-over burst from Haris Rauf, who accounted single-handedly for the top order in a spell of three-for-38. Even more impressive was the seamer’s glorious left-footed dribble along the boundary to deny Jonny Bairstow four runs.

Bairstow, though, was another in ruthless form with the bat, blunting any hopes of a Pakistan fightback with successive sixes off Shadab Khan, before Yorkshire teammate Harry Brook hit the winning runs into the stand off Rauf.

Winning the toss and electing to field, England brought Mark Wood in for Reece Topley in the only change to the side that had claimed a 23-run victory in Birmingham, the livewire admitting his desperation to play having sat on the sidelines since the Test tour to India finished in March.

Mark Wood showed little signs of rust in his first T20I over in 14 months (Getty Images)
Mark Wood showed little signs of rust in his first T20I over in 14 months (Getty Images)

Taking the new ball and touching speeds of 96mph in his first T20I over in 14 months, Wood showed few signs of rust. Later, he claimed two wickets with fiendish short-balls, while fellow pacer Jofra Archer made the key breakthrough to halt Pakistan’s flying start, removing Babar with a clever piece of slower bowling from the final ball of the powerplay having just been drilled for successive fours. More importantly, Archer came through another game in his comeback and will board tomorrow’s flight to the Caribbean in one piece.

It was spin, though, that did most of the damage through the middle overs, with Rashid particularly outstanding as he deceived Rizwan through the air, then cramped Shadab on nought in the midst of a collapse that saw Pakistan lose five wickets for 27 runs before worsening rain brought small reprieve.

Usman Khan briefly threatened a damaging counter-attack after a swift restart, twice clearing the fence in a top-scoring knock of 38 for 21, but he was undone by a piece of trademark Chris Jordan brilliance in the field, the Surrey man electric off the rope on his home ground to take a diving catch inches from the ground.

That dismissal formed part of a double-wicket maiden from Livingstone, whose three-over spell cost just 17 and surely makes certain of his place in the side in the Caribbean, where gripping pitches are expected to suit his spin more than Sam Curran’s seam.

With World Cup practice in mind, Buttler had the luxury of sharing the death overs between his seamers, Jordan’s 18th costing just two singles and bringing a wicket, before Wood bounced out Naseem Shah and Rauf was last man run-out of what proved Archer’s final ball.