Anything England’s reserves can do their big guns could not quite do better. Or, at least, one of the newest members last night of Eoin Morgan’s formidable first-choice white-ball batsmen.
Liam Livingstone certainly cemented his place in the most destructive of all England teams with an extraordinary display of hitting on a record-breaking night at Trent Bridge.
But it was not quite enough to earn victory as Pakistan hit back from the embarrassment of their 50-over demise to pull off a thrilling 31-run win.
England have lost the first T20 match against Pakistan at Trent Bridge, falling 31 runs short
Liam Livingstone hit England’s fastest ever T20 100 off just 42 balls but it wasn’t enough
Pakistan captain Babar Azam got his team off to a strong start, hitting 50 runs off just 35 balls
Livingstone’s explosive 103 off just 43 balls left England just short of the highest successful chase in their Twenty20 history after Pakistan had smashed 232 for six.
It was firstly the fastest 50 for England in T20 cricket, off just 17 balls, and then became their quickest hundred in any format when he stormed to three figures off 42 deliveries. That defeated Jos Buttler’s record off 46 balls, also against Pakistan in an ODI, six years ago.
And it ensured England’s near first choice side, returning from the quarantine that ruled them out of the 3-0 50-over win, made a spectacular but losing start to this series.
This was quite incredible from Livingstone, complete with his peroxide blonde Phil Foden type look, who is now certain of a place among England’s plethora of world-class white-ball batsmen at October’s Twenty20 World Cup.
But it was not enough to take England over the line as the Lancastrian fell to Shadab Khan the next ball after reaching his century trying to hit what would have been his 10thsix. It was the decisive moment of an action-packed night.
That left England still with 49 to get off 21 balls and even though David Willey hit 16 off 11 balls they could not quite do it. Pakistan’s pride restored and England left with a fight on their hands in their last T20 series before they name their provisional World Cup squad.
Azam eventually lost his wicket to England pace bowler David Willey (right), caught behind
Mohammed Hafeez hit a fabulous rear-guard action, helping Pakistan to a mammoth 232 runs
Tom Curran (right) was the pick of England’s bowlers and picked up two wickets in the match
It was another run-laden Trent Bridge pitch that provided the perfect stage for a demonstration of remarkable hitting from both sides that thrilled a 17,000 full-house.
Pakistan’s latest bunch of wounded tigers were always likely to provide stronger resistance after the 50-over team were thrashed by England’s hastily assembled reserves.
And it was no surprise it was Babar Azam who propelled them to Pakistan’s highest score in T20 history and the third highest short-form total against England.
The Pakistan captain came within centimetres of being caught by Dawid Malan at slip off Willey in the first over.
But once he had taken Willey for three successive fours Babar was off and running and provided another sublime display of the skills that have made him one of the world’s best white-ball batsmen.
By the time Babar, who made 150 in a losing cause in the third ODI at Edgbaston, was caught by Jonny Bairstow off Willey he had smashed 85 off 49 balls with three sixes.
England’s batting started badly when Dawid Malan was caught and bowled by Shaheen Shah Afridi for just one run
Opener Jason Roy took the fight straight back to Pakistan, smashing several huge sixes
There were also three sixes in a Saqib Mahmood over from Fakhar Zaman as Pakistan made the most of the start given them by Babar and Mohammad Rizwan with an opening stand of 150 in 14.4 overs.
Morgan had said this would be England’s last chance to experiment before October’s T20 World Cup, with death bowling still something of a cause for concern in an otherwise formidable short-form side.
So it was intriguing to see England include both Tom Curran and Mahmood, the star of ‘Ben’s Babes’ 50-over squad, in what appeared, with Chris Jordan left out, something of a death-overs shoot-out.
Neither could claim to have excelled over the other, both disappearing at more than 11 an over, but at least Curran took two wickets to Mahmood’s one.
Moeen Ali also fell cheaply, caught by Haris Rauf (right) who then collided with his team-mate
Livingstone blasted England’s fastest 50 in T20, coming off just 17 balls with five huge sixes
There were equally chastening figures for Matt Parkinson, given his chance ahead of the rested Adil Rashid, who conceded just 11 runs in his first two overs but 36 in his final two.
One England player who had a forgettable night without even bowling was Moeen Ali. First he was ignored again with the ball by Morgan, who preferred Livingstone’s assortment of off and leg-breaks, and then fell for just a single after being promoted to four in the order.
England were still without Jos Buttler who was ruled out with the thigh injury he suffered in the first T20 of the season against Sri Lanka.
It was originally thought Buttler would miss the rest of the international white-ball summer to concentrate on next month’s Test series against India so it was something of a surprise to see him named in this squad to face Pakistan and then miss out here. It remains to be seen if Buttler plays in tomorrow’s second match or Tuesday’s final game at Old Trafford.
For now that can wait because the Nottingham full-house were treated to an occasion to savour and one that Livingstone – and Babar – will long remember.