After observing a 14-day quarantine, undergoing several rounds of Covid Tests and living life inside a bio-secure bubble, it would have been a travesty had Pakistan returned back home empty handed. But they won the third and final T20I in Manchester to level the T20Is 1-1 and signed off in style.
Ever since Money Heist has hit Netflix, people have been going gaga over the 'Professor'. Pakistan's very own professor, Mohammad Hafeez showed as much fox-like smartness, masterfulness over his craft, an attitude of a perfectionist, and a forward thinking approach to pull off a heist of runs in England.
There were a lot of question marks over the selection of the 39-year-old in a format like T20 over some talented youngsters, but Hafeez must be grinning in some corner of his hotel and thinking in Ramdin-esque style - 'Yeh, Haters, Talk Nah,' albeit only in his head. After all, he is the 'professor'. Hafeez shone through with 155 runs in 88 balls across two innings with as many as 10 maximums to secure the Player-of-the-Series award, besides his highest ever T20I score - 86* in the third and final T20I - to help Pakistan post a formidable total of 190 runs and level the series 1-1.
Brother Mo, as he is fondly called by lot of his fans on Twitter, was certainly not in any brotherly mood in the third T20I, when he decided to make Shadab Khan taste the brunt of his super smashing powers much like Kuldeep Yadav, who was left in tears last IPL, when he smashed the chinaman for three sixes in an over. When a gifted player starts to fail invariably, he soon turns into an overrated player for many, which Moeen has been termed in the last few months.
Having averaged 17.37 in ODIs, 14.50 in T20Is and 3.25 in two Test matches since the start of last summer, and four single-digit scores this summer, before the third T20I at Old Trafford, Moeen was under tremendous pressure to perform. And boy he did hit some meaty blows in the series finale to put his average performances in the first two T20Is behind him. Moeen made 61 from 33 and was threatening to win the game on his game after the hosts were reduced to 4-69 chasing 191, but he got out in the penultimate over. Still, without a doubt, Brother Mo emerged as a victor from the series.
A batting powerhouse, Tom Banton was born to play T20 cricket. I mean, look at those slog-sweeps, scoops and reverse-sweeps, a leg-side dominant game and a typical modern day attitude of utter fearlessness. But after grabbing eyeballs in the 2019 Blast, the 21-year-old batsman had failed to replicate his dazzling strokeplay and powerful strikes in the three-T20Is against New Zealand and also had an average start to his One-day international career. Moreover, the PSL also turned out to be a struggle of sorts for him.
But cometh the Pakistan T20Is and batting at his favorite opening position, Banton came out all guns blazing. The dashing right-hander made 137 runs at 45.66 at a brilliant strike-rate of 153.93 and finally showcased his top-notch skillset at the highest-level. He might have got out to Shadab Khan twice but the way he was tonking the leggie all around the park in the first game and also Imad Wasim throughout the series, he has thrown his hat in the ring for the 2021 T20 World Cup in India.
If crucifying Pakistan skippers, going after the whole team, management, selectors, and everyone in the most disdainful manner is an art, then Shoaib Akhtar is a master of it. Not that Akhtar wasn't any less of a drama king during his playing days but Shoaib the Youtube sensation certainly has no boundaries when it comes to blabbering. Last year, he had labelled Sarfaraz 'brainless' and a 'puppet' of the management. The man who gave back prominence to words like 'Phenta' (whipping), 'Dileri' (courage), came up with another special when he opined that Babar Azam looks like a 'lost cow', questioned the youngster’s captaincy and dependency on management, and even stated that Pakistani batsmen look scared and bereft of any strength after the visitors were defeated in the second T20I.
Babar and his men, though, silenced the former cricketer in the best possible manner, scoring big runs, showing ample of strength, winning the third game, and leveling the T20I series. Well, I can just give one piece of advice to our beloved Shoaib bhai, stop taking out frustration of your career and power struggles with management and selectors, and start acting like Shoaib the maverick fast bowler that you were, than a headline hungry Youtube sensation. You have a legacy to live up to.
It's hard to separate Sarfaraz Ahmed from the headlines. It just takes one yawn of his, and the whole world goes into euphoria mode. But, unfortunately for Sarfaraz, he didn't have much to take back from this tour, apart from that legendary yawn and missed stumping - or I should say refusal to stump Moeen Ali, due to reasons best known to him, in the third and final T20I - which nearly cost Pakistan the game. On the other hand, Mohammad Rizwan came out firing on all cylinders and is now touted as one of the best wicket-keepers in modern-day cricket after his exploits in England, which included some exceptionally brilliant catches behind the stumps and gritty batting performances in front of it.
As gutted as David Willey will be, the T20I series against Pakistan didn't help him gain anything - he didn't play a game, and has also been dropped from England's T20I and ODI squads for the Australia series with the return of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood. The Northampton-born cricketer had done exceedingly well against Ireland in the three-match ODI series, both with the bat and with the white-cherry in hand. The 30-year-old had picked a fifer and made a fifty but all these performances went in vain as England didn't even pick him for a single game against Pakistan, with pacer Saqib Mahmood and all-rounder Lewis Gregory preferred instead.
It isn't for the first time when Willey has been hard done by. The Yorkshire cricketer wasn't considered for the 2019 World Cup at the 11th hour by England after they went ahead with Jofra Archer. Also the fact that England already have a seaming all-rounder in Ben Stokes, it will always be a dreaded path for the left-armer and not making any appearance in the Pakistan T20Is certainly didn’t help his contention for the upcoming series against Australia