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Salt in sparkling form as dominant England win sets up series decider

P

hil Salt blew Pakistan away with a punishing 88 not out as England took their seven-match Twenty20 series all the way to a decider.

Needing victory to tie the scores at 3-3, and with two unsuccessful chases in a row under their belts, the tourists romped to an eight-wicket win on the back of Salt’s brilliance.

Faced with a target of 170, Salt blazed away in style to make a tricky target look inconsequential. The Lancashire opener hit three sixes and 13 fours in a 41-ball stay, easily outstripping his previous high of 57 in the format.

The tour now moves to its conclusion, with everything on the line in Lahore on Sunday.

The first ball of England’s chase set the tone but could have gone either way, Salt slashing Mohammad Nawaz for four but only after it went perilously close to the catcher at backward point.

A whip past mid-on carried less risk for the same reward but the scoring was only just getting started. Salt and Alex Hales slammed 22 off the second over, matching each other stroke for stroke with a six and four apiece off the shellshocked Shahnawaz Dahani.

Mohammad Wasim was called on to stem the flow and shipped another 17, including three fours in a row from Hales, who hung back and whacked the short stuff then drove emphatically as the length crept forward. England had 50 off the first three overs and had set a tempo that slashed the required rate dramatically.

Shadab Khan temporarily halted the carnage when Hales (27) skied a top-edge in pursuit of another big hit, but Salt could not be tamed. He pumped Nawaz down the ground four times in the space of five deliveries, slamming the ropes on three occasions and clearing them once.

There was no going back for Salt, who sprinted to England’s third fastest half-century in just 19 deliveries then punished Aamer Jamal with a pair of cracking pulls. Dawid Malan played nicely for 26 but fell foul of a low grubber from Shadab.

By the halfway point of the chase the result was a formality, with only 41 more needed. Ben Duckett made a breezy 26 to cut off Salt’s hopes of a century, but allowed his partner to claim the winning runs with 33 balls unused.

Pakistan had earlier posted 169 for six, built around Babar Azam’s 87 not out. The captain bore a heavy burden in the absence of his usual accomplice Mohammad Rizwan – officially rested despite his hot streak of form – and lived up to expectation.

Babar Azam dragged Pakistan to 169 from their 20 overs but it was nowhere near enough

/ Getty Images

Babar was a class apart from the rest of his team, hitting three sixes and seven fours in his 59 balls, as he gave the hosts a chance of pushing for an unassailable 4-2 series lead.

Rizwan has been a constant thorn in England’s side and without him, the Pakistan powerplay got off to a false start. The pressure began building early, as Reece Topley and David Willey both worked through cheap opening overs, and early wickets quickly followed.

Rizwan’s replacement Mohammad Haris found the shoes too big to fill, managing one clean blow for six before horribly mis-judging his angles and threading Richard Gleeson straight to short third-man.

Shan Masood was close behind, trapped on the crease as Willey rapped his knee-roll, leaving Babar to lead the way. The skipper responded by sending three of his next four balls to the boundary, jump-starting the innings to 40 for two at the end of the powerplay.

Babar had eased himself into his usual rhythm but needed support from the middle order. He managed stands of 47 and 48 with Haider Ali and Iftikhar Ahmed, but both partnerships came to a halt thanks to an enterprising display from Sam Curran.

The all-rounder turned in handy figures of two for 26, hustling Pakistan with a selection of gently deceptive short balls and cutters. Topley saw strong figures vandalised by shipping 19 in the last over, but with Salt in inspired form that was still a drop in the ocean.

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