By our correspondent
KARACHI: Alex Hales marked his T20 international return with a solid 53 while Luke Wood (3-24) made a dream debut with the ball as England downed Pakistan by six wickets in their opener of the seven-match T20 series here at the National Stadium on Tuesday.
Hales, who returned to international T20 cricket after three years, smacked seven fours in his 40-ball knock as England raced to the 159-run target with four balls to spare after losing four wickets in the process.
Hales, who was dropped by Shan Masood off Usman Qadir at half-way stage of his innings, brought in his ninth T20 fifty from 39 balls before being held by Babar off Haris Rauf.
He added 55 runs for the fourth wicket association with Harry Brook who struck seven fours in his excellent 25-ball unfinished 42.
Usman Qadir was the pick of the bowlers with 2-36 in four overs while Dahani (1-38) and Haris Rauf (1-23) were the other successful bowlers.
Earlier Mohammad Rizwan (68) hit another fine fifty to enable Pakistan post 158-7 in the allotted 20 overs. Luke Wood made a dream debut by taking 3-24 in four overs.
After a rapid start to their chase England lost Phil Salt when Shahnawaz Dahani removed him when he pulled a short-off-length ball with Haider Ali taking a super catch at deep square-leg. Salt struck two fours in his run-a-ball ten.
Dawid Malan and Alex Hales then started consolidating the innings. However, leggie Usman Qadir got the prized scalp of Malan. The left-hander welcomed Qadir with a straight six, before he nudged one back with Qadir taking a good return catch to send the danger man.
Malan struck two fours and one six in his 15-ball 20 and England were 53-2 in the seventh over. Ben Duckett then joined Hales and both looked solid in their approach before Usman Qadir getting rid of Duckett, trapped lbw. A review was taken by the batsman but it failed to prove the on-field umpire wrong. Duckett smacked 17-ball 21 with two fours and shared 35 for the third wicket stand with Hales. And England were 87-3 in the 11th over.
However, at this stage Hales and Harry Brook shared a decent partnership of 55 which helped them chase the target with an enviable ease in the end.
Luke Wood was adjudged as man of the match for his excellent bowling.
Earlier Mohammad Rizwan started from where he had left in the Asia Cup as the wicket-keeper batsman hammered a fantastic 46-ball 68 to guide Pakistan to 158-7 after being invited to bat first.
Rizwan, who decided against taking rest despite his fitness issues, was seen in fine element. He picked up gaps nicely and hammered a few fine strokes during his 17th fifty of his T20 career. He completed his fifty off 32 balls when he hammered spinner Moeen Ali for a glorious straight six. He put on 85 runs for the opening stand with skipper Babar Azam who was bowled by leg-spinner Adil Rashid with a fine googly which ripped through the stumps of the right-hander.
Babar, who had a lean patch in the Asia Cup in the UAE recently, hit three fours in his 24-ball 31. Rizwan then added 24 runs for the second wicket with Haider Ali before left-arm pacer Sam Curran removed the latter, held by David Willey for a 13-ball 11.
And in the next over Rizwan also fell which put Pakistan under pressure. Rizwan came down the wicket to a top off-spin from Moeen Ali, failed to read it before it went through and keeper Phil Salt made no mistake in stumping the right-hander.
Rizwan smacked two sixes and six fours in his glorious knock. In the next over Adil Rashid dislodged Shan Masood, who went for a reverse slog-sweep and it went up with Richard Gleeson taking an easy catch.
Shan, who made his international T20 debut, struck one four in his run-a-ball seven. Luke Wood then bowled Mohammad Nawaz (4) to reduce Pakistan to 137-5 in the 18th over. And then came a cameo from Iftikhar Ahmed. The right-handed batsman from Peshawar smashed three towering sixes in his valuable 17-ball 28 before being held nicely in the deep by Ben Duckett off Luke Wood in the final over of the innings. Luke then removed Naseem Shah (0) to restrict Pakistan to 158-7. Pakistan scored 51 in the six overs powerplay. In ten overs they were 87-1 and in 15 overs they were 120-3, with 38 runs coming in the last five overs.
The 27 years old Lancashire left-armer Luke Wood made his impressive debut and finished with 3-24 in his quota of four overs.
Adil got 2-27 in his four while Sam Curran (1-30) and Moeen Ali (1-23) were the other successful bowlers.
Aleem Dar and Asif Yaqoob supervised the match. Ahsan Raza was the television umpire, Rashid Riaz, reserve umpire and Mohammad Javed, the match referee.
The next match will be held here at the same venue on Thursday (tomorrow).