England succumbed to Umar Gul in last night’s eight-run defeat, as Graeme Swann’s career-best bowling again proved in vain against Pakistan at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium.
Gul took three crucial wickets to undermine England’s chase of 144-6, to help his team go 1-0 up with two to play.
History therefore repeated itself for Swann, whose 3-13 bettered by one run his previous best – which came in defeat against these opponents on this very ground almost two years ago.
Swann’s eventful night, in front of the biggest crowd of England’s tour to date, began with a glaring drop to reprieve Asad Shafiq on nine.
But he returned to first of all see off the same batsman, with a clumsy and marginal run-out, and then take three wickets for one run in eight balls.
A double-wicket maiden featured in the off-spinner’s personal best; yet it was to be Gul (3-18), who eventually had the most telling impact.
Kevin Pietersen, in particular, and Craig Kieswetter got England’s chase off to a handy start in an opening stand of 48.
Pietersen took 13 runs from Junaid Khan’s first over but was then responsible for five of the dots in the second, from Gul.
He looked in the mood nonetheless with 33 from 21 balls – and had just clubbed Shahid Afridi over long-off for six when he did not get quite enough on the next ball, in the leg-spinner’s first over, and was very well held by Shafiq almost on the rope at midwicket.
Kieswetter was doubly culpable, getting out in the very next over to an embarrassing shot, backing so far away to Mohammad Hafeez that he could not reach a ball which bowled him leg-stump.
Much therefore depended on Ravi Bopara and Eoin Morgan, who had to begin with just one run between them.
Morgan missed a drive at Hafeez and lost his leg-stump but teamed up with Bopara, who top-scored with 39 and dominated another useful stand with Jonny Bairstow.
Bopara showed no signs of the back injury which ruled him out of England’s fourth successive one-day international win here on Tuesday, after his consecutive half-centuries in that format.
He scampered four twos, and hit a straight six, in one over from Junaid. But just when it seemed he and Bairstow might finish the job, Bopara achieved a ‘Kieswetter’ in reverse, going so far across outside off that he did not cover leg-stump and duly lost it to Gul.
Pakistan’s premier seamer then saw off Jos Buttler, caught at short fine-leg, and had Samit Patel lbw to a yorker first ball.
Swann stopped the hat-trick, but could not tilt the match back in England’s favour. He had induced a significant mid-innings wobble for Pakistan, before Shoaib Malik (39) and Misbah-ul-Haq kept the hosts’ total competitive.
After Stuart Broad won the toss, the captain himself did most to quell an explosive start – with a first spell of two overs for five runs, in powerplay.
But debutant opener Awais Zia had already fulfilled his brief, clubbing a six and a four in his 18 from 12 balls, before mistiming a slower ball from Steven Finn straight to mid-off.
Number three Shafiq had his moment of fortune, dropped by Swann off Jade Dernbach running back from mid-off, as he and Hafeez more than doubled the score.
Swann then earned his first moment of redemption when he somehow managed to dislodge the bails – it was not evident with which part of his body and whether it was in contact with the ball – to complete the run-out of Shafiq.
That began a run of four wickets for the addition of eight runs – Swann having a hand, or something similar in the first – and then the bowler for the rest.
Hafeez picked out the man in the leg-side deep; Afridi chipped straight to midwicket. Then Umar Akmal went for a duck as Dernbach, clearly holding no grudges for Swann’s drop, took a fine tumbling catch at long-off.
Shoaib and Misbah therefore had to bat sensibly, and fared admirably in a stand of 71 – which included a blatant Swann misfield at short third-man to concede an extra boundary in the final over, off a grimacing Dernbach.
By the end of the night, he was not the only one with a scowl on his face in the England camp.
Broad was not too downhearted after his side’s defeat, believing his side can bounce back to snatch the series and add to their ODI success under Alastair Cook.
“Pakistan batted quite nicely in the first three or four overs and made it difficult for us,” said Broad.
“Obviously Twenty20 is a very different game to one-day cricket. There’s not as much value for holding length and sticking in there. We’ll certainly review the game.
“We bowled pretty well and fielded not as well as we have done in the ODIs but we’re happy to keep them to 144.”
Opposing captain Misbah, who has enjoyed an up and down trip as skipper across the three formats, was pleased with what he sees as a timely morale boost for his players.
“That really is an important win which we needed for us to get the confidence back, especially the players who were not in good touch or short of confidence,” he added. “I think we are going to do well in the next two games.”