Neither England nor Pakistan are historically the most consistent teams in cricket, the latter in particular, however what they do produce is mind-blowing matches with twists and turns that last right until the very last ball.
Yesterday’s fourth T20 was yet another prime example of just how much can change in six or fewer balls, only for it once again to completely flip in the subsequent over.
And while this makes for exhilarating cricket, with a T20 World Cup not too far in the future, the inconsistency is not something either side will be favouring as they prepare to face the likes of Australia, India and South Africa.
England’s historic tour in Pakistan has been a constant see-saw of emotions and results with both teams winning two matches a piece so far with three left to go.
Heroes have been born and rediscovered in both dressing rooms, stunning innings have been hit and sensational spells have been bowled.
However, while it is no doubt one of the most exciting T20 series England have been part of in recent times, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali will be hoping the see-saw eventually weighs heavier on England’s side as the remaining three matches are played out.
Here is what we have learned so far from England’s performances in Pakistan…
No Jonny or Ben? No problem…
When it was announced Jonny Bairstow had injured himself and would subsequently be out of both the Pakistan tour and the T20 World Cup, the prospect of England being without their 2022 superstar was a troubling one.
If this series has shown us anything, it’s that those fears were unwarranted, and the future of England’s white-ball batting is in pretty good hands.
Harry Brook has been one of the standout cricketers in this series, producing two match-winning performances and offering some much-needed stability in the middle-order.
Despite his tender years (23), he plays with a beautiful ease and appears to have all of the wisdom and composure of a player 10 years his senior.
His 81* off just 35 balls was arguably the innings of the series so far (Babar Azam might disagree…) and along with Ben Duckett, the pair of them brought home England’s second win of the series.
Such fearlessness that is seen in Harry Brook’s batting, and to a slightly lesser extent Ben Duckett’s, is likely to prove invaluable when facing superstars such as Jasprit Bumrah, Pat Cummins and Kagiso Rabada at the World Cup.
Will England ever beat their battle with consistency?
While two wins apiece is making for an exceptionally thrilling series, it’s providing less comfort for any fans hoping England will be able to win all required matches in the upcoming T20 World Cup.
It becomes hard to pin-point exactly what goes wrong from match to match regarding England’s consistency, and unfortunately this particular battle is not just seen in England’s T20 fixtures but across the board in all formats.
The first match between Pakistan and England saw England’s bowlers rattle through their opposition’s batters with relative ease, while the next fixture saw Pakistan win by 10 wickets.
Additionally, the third match Harry Brook and Ben Duckett were able to put on a remarkable unbroken stand of 139 runs from 69 balls to hit a total of 221 which was then followed by England struggling to reach Pakistan’s total of 166 in the fourth and most recent match.
England cannot afford the luxury of swinging from triumph to disaster when they cross the hemisphere later this autumn and while the constant change of squad may not be helping the matter, it is hard to believe benign excuses such as a slight squad change can affect such a dramatic change in scores.
With several other new players likely to make a return to the squad in Australia, such as Chris Jordan and Ben Stokes, fans must hope that their inclusion will not bring about more inconsistency but a wealth of necessary experience in a team that is in a process of what the white-ball coach Matthew Mott has called rebuilding.
Fringe bowlers could force their way into World Cup side
This summer a number of bowlers who had been deemed England’s leaders in the attack were out of action with various injuries.
Yet, this doesn’t appear to have made too much of a difference as the Pakistan series has shown us England’s bowling strength is exceptionally deep with options left, right and centre.
Luke Wood has been one such figure stepping up to prove his credentials ahead of next month’s World Cup.
In the first T20 against Pakistan, and his first ever time in an England shirt, he took three wickets for just 24 runs and produced an exhibition in death bowling that Chris Jordan would be insatiably proud of.
Now, let’s not be mistaken, there isn’t too much that looks better for an England fan than watching Mark Wood fire in rockets at 97mph.
However, given his tendencies for side strains and shoulder injuries, it’s rather comforting to know that his presence isn’t vital for England to win.
Similarly, Chris Jordan is internationally recognised for his excellence in death bowling, yet when Wood managed to take two wickets in the final over of the first match and keep his figures to three wickets from four overs for just 24 runs, suddenly the desperation for Jordan to return didn’t feel quite so strong.
In a series that has felt more like an audition for the World Cup, there are still some bowlers previously thought to be dead certainties who need to up their game given the talent around.
David Willey is one such figure whose place may well become under threat as Wood and Reece Topley continue to rise.
He has proved himself as a fairly expensive feature of the squad in the games he has played while those with less experience than himself have instead become match-winners.