Pietersen keeps England afloat
Kevin Pietersen's continued good form brought him a half-century but still left England vulnerable after posting 129 for six in tonight's Twenty20 decider against Pakistan.
Pietersen's unbeaten 62 underpinned an England total which lacked a double-figure score between numbers three and six as Saeed Ajmal, their scourge on a tough tour which concludes tonight, took four for 23.
It was only in company with fellow opener Craig Kieswetter and later Samit Patel that Pietersen managed to generate momentum on an awkward spinners' surface. He nonetheless finished with six fours and a six from 52 balls, to give England an outside chance of the win which see them prevail 2-1 to end a mixed tour on a positive note.
Pietersen alone struck the ball with any regularity and authority as England's batsmen struggled to cope with conditions, after Stuart Broad chose to bat first. Kieswetter and Pietersen got England off to a handy start for the third match running, until the former was well caught at wide long-on by Shoaib Malik in Ajmal's first over.
Kieswetter had been responsible for clubbing 12 runs, culminating in a straight six, from Umar Gul's first three deliveries. But neither Ravi Bopara nor Eoin Morgan could get started.
Bopara edged a very good ball from Aizaz Cheema to diving wicketkeeper Umar Akmal. Then Morgan's nightmare tour concluded with one of his worst innings. He somehow managed an acceptable nine from 11 balls, but could easily have been out twice as he mistimed - or simply missed - before a mix-up with Pietersen saw him run out.
Jonny Bairstow, hero of England's series-levelling win in Dubai two days ago, was also all at sea in the desert this time as Ajmal and Shahid Afridi took control.
Ajmal bowled Bairstow, trying to cut the wrong ball. But it was Afridi who dried up the runs most effectively, as England failed to score from 12 of the 24 balls the leg-spinner bowled.
Pietersen lost the strike, facing only 14 of 40 deliveries at one stage, and - until Patel joined him - it was all too much for a succession of new men to the wicket.
Patel struck 12 runs, again including a straight six, from the first three balls of Ajmal's last over. But the off-spinner had the last word, when Patel was stumped, and even Pietersen could not get England significantly above six-an-over until Cheema served him a full-toss which disappeared over midwicket for a maximum from the last ball of the innings.