Liam Livingstone century in vain as Pakistan beat England in high-scoring opener
Liam Livingstone smashed his way to a record-breaking century but it was not enough to carry England home as Pakistan took the first Twenty20 by 31 runs.
Livingstone has been waiting for lift-off in his international career ever since his debut four years ago and finally went stratospheric at Trent Bridge, hammering 103 in just 42 deliveries.
Not only was it the fastest ever by an England batsman in white-ball cricket, three balls fewer than Dawid Malan’s existing mark, it was also the fifth quickest ever seen in T20Is.
There were nine sixes in a dazzling display of power-hitting, topped up by half-a-dozen boundaries, as he almost tripled his previous best in England colours.
And yet it was all in a losing cause as Pakistan scored their highest ever total in the format, 232 for six, and dismissed their hosts for 201.
For England, Livingstone’s arrival as a game-changer at the highest level will go a long way to taking the edge off defeat. Having rested first-choice bowlers Chris Jordan and Adil Rashid, they will also feel there is more to come.
Pakistan’s innings followed a neat blueprint, with Babar Azam (85) and Mohammad Rizwan (63) setting a base of 80 off the first 10 overs before the blades started swinging in the second half and they piled on another 152.
Things might have been different had Babar fallen to his first delivery of the match, but his outside edge off David Willey fell tantalisingly short of slip.
Things shifted when Eoin Morgan turned to spin at both ends, a ploy which went on to cost 71 runs from 36 balls. Livingstone was milked for 24 of those but it was a spell of two halves for Matt Parkinson, who allowed only 11 from his first two visits then found himself helpless as his next two were bludgeoned for 36, including three sixes dumped over midwicket.
Lewis Gregory belatedly got England on the board in the 15th over, Rizwan botching an uppercut to end the opening stand, and it would have been two in two had Jonny Bairstow held on to Sohaib Maqsood.
England grabbed another five wickets before the close but could not prevent the ball disappearing into the stands, with Maqsood, Fakhar Zaman and Mohammad Hafeez sharing eight more sixes in a fearless display that exposed gaps in the death bowling of Tom Curran and Saqib Mahmood.
Where Pakistan had favoured a steady start, England’s refusal to back down saw them post 69 for three in a chaotic powerplay. There were top-order failures for Malan and Bairstow, Shaheen Shah Afridi with a brilliant caught and bowled and a top-edged bouncer, and a flunked opportunity up the order for Moeen Ali.
Unused as a bowler, he was pushed up to number four but scored just a single before holing out.
Jason Roy (32 off 13) kept the scales balanced, mocking his perceived flaws against spin by smashing a trio of burly sixes off Imad Wasim.
Livingstone liked what he saw and, after one lucky effort cleared third man, began doling out his punishments.
He found his hitting range off Haris Rauf and then tore into Shadab Khan, smashing back-to-back sixes over midwicket followed by a fierce straight punch. A pulled four cemented his half-century in just 17 balls and he celebrated moments later by going big over long-off.
Amid the damage, Shadab made a crucial intervention when Roy’s leading edge went to hands.
Morgan never looked as fluent and when he picked out the boundary rider for 16, it was all on Livingstone.
When Pakistan tried to close off his leg-side options he accepted the challenge, carving Shaheen high over point, and when Rauf missed his yorker he went the distance over long-on. Livingstone reached his revelatory ton with a ninth maximum but was gone to his 43rd ball attempting more of the same.
Without him there was too much to do and Shaheen ended a plucky lower-order fight by bowling Parkinson with four balls to spare.
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