England batsman Alex Hales walk to pavilion after gives wicket to Pakistan bower Shahid Afridi during the Pakistan and England T20 International match at the Dubai International Stadium in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Friday, Nov. 27, 2015. (AP Photo)
Dubai - Back-to-back Dubai double in T20s renders Sharjah showdown a redundant dead rubber
England scraped home to a three-run victory over Pakistan in the second Twenty20 (T20) tussle at Dubai International Stadium to seal the series win.
It looked as though the tourists hadn't quite done enough with the bat first up for the second night in a row here, with captain Shahid Afridi (3-15) and Anwar Ali (2-27) returning economical figures to take five wickets between them.
They had, in fairness, managed to add 12 runs to their score from before to get up to 172-8, yet that tally still looked vulnerable to against a pumped-up Pakistan XI in front of a capacity crowd.
Just two England batsmen, James Vince (38) and stand-in skipper Jos Buttler (33), made it past 30 and only one other name on the teamsheet - opener Jason Roy (29) - progressed beyond 20. England's innings contained nine fours and as many sixes, so 90 of their 172 runs were not really - theoretically - 'runs' at all.
Pakistan's reply was characterised by solid starts from their top four batsmen, with Ahmed Shehzad (28), Rafatullah Mohmand (23), Mohammad Hafeez (25) and Shoaib Malik (26) all making sturdy contributions.
Shoaib Maqsood (2) and Umar Akmal (3) failed to fire though between the dismissals of Hafeez and Malik, thereby leaving it to that man Afridi to get his side to within sight of a series-levelling success.
Coming in somewhat surprisingly as the eighth man to bat, it was a typical case of 'Boom Boom' by nickname, 'Boom Boom' by nature.
His characteristically belligerent knock of 24 off just eight balls, including three sixes and one four, resulted in Pakistan needing 23 off the final two overs.
Sarfraz Ahmed (19) got the equation down to 11 off five and Ali (3) and Tanvir (6) chipped away at it incrementally to set up a nerve-jangling finale.
One boundary off the very last ball would have meant there was something riding on the result in Sharjah on Monday night (Start: 8am).
Nonetheless, Ali could only manage a complete air shot at a Chris Woakes delivery that carried on through to the gloves of Buttler, who thus marked his first taste of international captaincy at the highest level with a slender triumph.
"I loved the experience," the Lancashire wicketkeeper-batsman said. "I've obviously been vice captain for a while and it's a lot easier when you can give your two pennies' worth and then step back and not be accountable for the decision.
"But, I really enjoyed it. That extra responsibility - and the pressure of it - certainly makes the game a bit more emotional and to come out on the right side in the end made it a really enjoyable start."
Reflecting on the match and result overall as opposed to the whole occasion, the 25-year-old added: "We got into a position where we should have won the game more comfortably. Afridi came in though and played as he can and that put a lot of pressure on us.
"We didn't play our best throughout the game. But, we showed a lot of character with the bat and the ball to do just enough at the right times and fair play to Chris Woakes for having the guts to stand up in that last over and do the job."
Fans cheer as Pakistan takes on England. Photo by Shihab / Khaleej Times