Twenty20 International novices Sam Billings and James Vince helped England go 1-0 up on Pakistan with a 14-run win at the Dubai International Stadium.
In the absence of the rested Joe Root and Jos Buttler, Billings (53) and debutant Vince (41) helped captain Eoin Morgan (45 not out) make up for any shortfall in a total of 160 for five.
Then Liam Plunkett (three for 21) – another unexpected selection after his tour of inactivity over the previous eight weeks and just one previous Twenty20 cap nine years ago – had a hand in each of Pakistan’s first three dismissals on the way to their 146 all out.
After Morgan won the toss and England stumbled to 19 for three, it seemed they may pay for the surprise omissions of two first-choice batsmen. But Vince reacted well to instant pressure in an important stand of 76 in ten overs with Morgan, and then Billings upped the ante, smashing five fours and two sixes from just 25 balls.
England had been in trouble, though, even before many in the large crowd had taken their seats. Jason Roy was first to go when, after hitting Sohail Tanvir over mid-off, he clogged the next ball straight to mid-on. Alex Hales, who might already have been run out for nought and should have been caught and bowled for one, instead went on eight when he hit Anwar Ali to mid-off. Moeen Ali could only contribute a six-ball duck, pushing Sohail to cover.
Alongside Morgan, Vince began to tick over at better than a run a ball, with a series of cultured conventional shots. Replacing Root at No 3, he had a maiden 50 in his sights until he was bowled aiming a big hit at a slower ball from Wahab.
Billings then dominated a partnership of 65 in six overs with Morgan, to race to his first international 50 in 24 balls.
England got two early breakthroughs in Pakistan’s reply when Sarfraz Ahmed and then Mohammad Hafeez both holed out at deep backward-square – from a sweep at Reece Topley (three for 24) and then a pull at Plunkett. The latter had held the first catch and then doubled up with his second wicket in his second over, ending the stay for Rafatullah Mohmand when he had the 39-year-old debutant opener caught behind.
The introduction of spin soon brought another wicket, Mohammad Rizwan bowled charging Stephen Parry.
A minor Pakistan revival ended with a comical run-out, the dangerous Umar Akmal racing non-striker Sohaib Maqsood for the safety of the non-striker’s crease after a mix-up over a single to short fine-leg and departing an unhappy man after losing the third-umpire photo finish.
Captain Shahid Afridi came and went in the blink of an eye, chipping a catch to cover off Parry and, when Maqsood was stumped off a Moeen wide, three wickets had fallen for one run in five balls. Anwar Ali climbed into two sixes in Parry’s last over, but Plunkett returned to have him caught at mid-off and complete a career-best.
Much-changed England still had to hold their nerve thanks to more late hitting by Tanvir in a last-ditch ninth-wicket stand of 45 with Wahab, before Topley picked up two more in the final over to consign Pakistan to their first Twenty20 defeat in seven matches.
Meanwhile, in Nagpur, South Africa were bowled out for their lowest-ever Test total against India as 20 wickets fell on a dramatic second day of the third Test. The Proteas were skittled for just 79 – which also represented their worst score since readmission to international cricket in 1991 – as only JP Duminy’s 35 saved them from further embarrassment. They now face the likelihood of losing their first away Test series in nine years.
India’s spinners again ran rampant as they maintained their stranglehold over the Proteas batsmen with all ten wickets. Ravichandran Ashwin led the way with five for 32.
The drama did not end there, however, as India were then bundled out for 173 to remarkably leave the tourists with an outside hope of a series-levelling win. South Africa cautiously moved to 32 for two by stumps in pursuit of 310.