Wicketkeeper-batsman Sam Billings stars as bold England strike first in T20 skirmish with Pakistan

 
Ross McLean
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Pakistan v England - 1st International T20
Sam Billing and Eoin Morgan starred for England (Source: Getty)

Skipper Eoin Morgan revelled in the depth of playing options at his disposal after a much-changed England dispatched Pakistan by 14 runs to secure victory in the opening T20 tussle with Pakistan in Dubai last night.

England recovered from 19-3 to post 160-5, as recalled wicketkeeper-batsman Sam Billings clobbered his maiden T20I half-century, while the ever-dependable Morgan posted an unbeaten 45 and debutant James Vince a valuable 41.

Pakistan slipped to 42-4 and then 75-7 before being dismissed for 146 with seam duo Reece Topley and Liam Plunkett both claiming three wickets as England won their fourth successive T20I showdown. The tourists can wrap up the three-match series in today’s second clash, also in Dubai.

The bigger picture is the World T20 in India in March, and winning without the likes of Joe Root and Jos Buttler gave a hint that Morgan’s charges could yet pack a punch and challenge for a title which England last won in the West Indies in 2010.

“It is always a good sign of a changing room that guys who have not played at all during a tour come in and perform really well. It shows the relaxed state of mind they are in and the fact they are chomping at the bit to come out and perform,” said Morgan.

“It’s a risk you take, trying new players, but today was brilliant and I was very proud of the guys.”

Morgan also stressed the need for a no-fear attitude to permeate the England squad and for players to operate with freedom if their limited-overs revolution is to become permanent.

“It is probably a lot easier for me. I have played quite a bit now and had a lot of experience. I’ve had the chance to make mistakes and go back and say ‘maybe I need to be a bit more chilled out’ because I make better decisions when I’m chilled out,” added Morgan.

“Hopefully that does rub off on the younger players because it can get quite heated, especially when the ball is flying everywhere in T20 cricket. But it is important to have a really calm demeanour about yourself and focus on the important things.”

Playing in only his third T20I, Billings arrived at the crease in the 14th over with England 95-4 but used the rebuilding work of Vince and Morgan, who shared 76 for the fourth wicket, as a foundation.

Man of the match Billings was run out on the final ball of the innings for 53, while his 24-ball half-century was the joint-second fastest by an England batsman in a T20I. Ravi Bopara’s 23-ball 50 against Australia in 2014 remains the record.

Newcomer Vince, meanwhile, showcased the form which saw him assume the status of the top-performing batsman in last season’s T20 Blast for Hampshire where he scored 710 at an average of 59.16.

A 45-run ninth-wicket stand between tail-enders Sohail Tanvir and Wahab Riaz flattered Pakistan, as Topley claimed 3-24 from his four-over allocation and the fiery Plunkett 3-21, while Lancashire’s left-arm spinner Stephen Parry snared 2-33.