England were vindicated in their decision to use an international match to experiment with team changes, after their fringe players powered them to a 14-run victory over Pakistan in Dubai.
England, mindful that they had only five T20I games to play before picking a squad for the World T20 in India, took the brave decision to omit Joe Root and Jos Buttler, both of whom can be considered automatic selections for that tournament, and instead give opportunities to James Vince, who made his T20I debut, and Sam Billings, who kept wicket for the first time in international cricket. There was also a recall for Liam Plunkett, who had not played a game on the tour and who played his only previous T20I in June 2006.
All three enjoyed fine games. And if Billings, who thrashed a 24-ball half-century, was probably the most impressive, Vince, with a classy 41 made in testing circumstances, and Plunkett, who bowled in excess of 90 mph in an impressively fiery spell, also did their chances of inclusion in that World T20 squad no harm at all.
This was an inexperienced England line-up. Only two men – Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan – had 10 or more T20I caps, so when they subsided to 19 for 3 after four overs, with all three wickets coming as the batsmen pushed at balls that may have gripped on a surface used for last week’s ODI, it seemed the absence of Root and Buttler might prove crucial.
But Vince, who timed the ball sweetly and looked far from overawed by the occasion, helped his captain add 76 in 10 overs for the fourth wicket, before Billings pressed the accelerator as England plundered 93 from the last 10 overs and 59 in the last five.
Vince was impressively calm amid the chaos. While he has played one ODI, he did not bat in it – it was the rain-ruined game in Ireland in May – so the manner in which he helped England rebuild while still engineering run-scoring opportunities hinted at a maturity and confidence that can serve England well.
He times the ball unusually sweetly, too. Wahab Riaz, having been pulled for four, was then driven through extra cover as Vince, taking a step back to give himself room, unfurled a flowing drive that may well become familiar in international cricket. His sweep, played off seamers and spinners, is also productive as Imran Khan, powered for six over midwicket, and Shahid Afridi, who was placed for four through fine leg, discovered.
When Vince was beaten by a good slower ball from Wahab – the final ball in a marvellous over that cost only one run and saw Morgan beaten like a snare drum – England could have faltered, but instead they increased the tempo in a passage of play that effectively settled the game.