England will be aiming to continue their fine T20I form on home soil when they take on Pakistan in a three-match series, starting on Friday in Nottingham.

Fresh off a 3-0 sweep in the ODI games against the same opponents, England switch to a format in which they have triumphed in five of their past six outings in their own back yard.

Indeed, they finished a 2020 season hampered by the coronavirus pandemic with three victories on the spin – another at Trent Bridge in the opener against Pakistan will match their longest winning run at home in 20-over action, having previously enjoyed a four-match streak from September 2014 to July 2016.

However, Pakistan won the most recent meeting between the teams in September of last year, a five-run victory in Manchester making sure that series finished level at 1-1.

The tourists will hope a change to T20 action can help them turn around their fortunes on this trip, considering they were outplayed by a makeshift England 50-over team that had been hastily put together due to COVID-19 protocols.

Eoin Morgan was among the regulars forced to isolate following positive coronavirus cases within the group that had been on duty for the ODI games against Sri Lanka, but the captain is back to lead a more familiar squad this time around.

Saqib Mahmood is included again after impressing in the one-day arena, while Lewis Gregory is also selected and there is a return from injury for Jos Buttler, too. Ben Stokes – captain of the 50-over side in Morgan's absence – is left out, however, having only just made his comeback following surgery on a broken finger.

Chris Silverwood will also be missing for the home team, with England's head coach taking a break from his duties. Paul Collingwood has been placed in temporary charge.

As for Pakistan, Imad Wasim has been recalled to a squad that also includes batsman Azam Khan, son of former national team captain and coach Moin Khan.

England are at home, but Trent Bridge has not been regularly used for T20 international fixtures in the past. The home side won by seven wickets against West Indies at the venue back in June 2012, having lost by the same margin when taking on South Africa there three years earlier.

 


In the (Mah)mood for more wickets

With England opting to leave out Sam Curran, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood – three likely selections for the upcoming Test series against India – Mahmood has an opportunity to stake his claim ahead of this year's Twenty20 World Cup.

The Lancashire pace bowler finished with nine wickets at an average of 13.66 in his three ODI outings against Pakistan, all while going at just 4.39 runs per over.

Brilliant Babar to lead the way?

Pakistan captain Babar Azam made up for two low scores with a sensational 158 in the third one-dayer, albeit his efforts came in a losing cause. His innings did at least strengthen his grip on top spot in the official ODI batting rankings.

He is just as prolific in T20I cricket, too. Since the beginning of 2019, the right-hander is the only player to reach 1,000 runs in the format (1,004), while no other has managed more scores of 50 or more across that period (11).

Key series facts

- Pakistan will be aiming for back-to-back wins in men’s T20Is against England for the first time, following a five-run victory in their most recent meeting (September 1, 2020).

- England are undefeated against Pakistan from their five multigame bilateral T20I series (W3, D2); their most recent such series in 2020 ended in a draw.

- Three of the four players with the best batting averages in T20I cricket (25+ innings) could appear in this series: Dawid Malan (47.4), Babar Azam (47.3) and Mohammad Rizwan (44.4). Only Virat Kohli (52.7) has a better average in the format than the trio.

- England have the second-best batting strike rate (148.9 runs per 100 deliveries) of any Test-playing country in T20I action since the beginning of 2019 (New Zealand – 151.5).

- Fakhar Zaman (948) is 52 away from scoring 1,000 T20 runs at international level; he would be the seventh man to achieve the feat for Pakistan, and the fourth fastest to do so (45th innings) if he achieves the milestone in the first match (Babar Azam – 26 innings, Mohammad Hafeez – 41 and Ahmed Shehzad – 42).

- Pakistan pace bowler Haris Rauf has taken 25 wickets in T20I action since the beginning of 2020; only two players have taken more in that time (Tabraiz Shamsi – 26 for South Africa and Ish Sodhi – 26 for New Zealand).

Mitchell Starc held his nerve at the death to guide Australia to their maiden win of the T20I Series by four runs after the West Indies almost blasted their way to victory from an improbable position on Thursday.

Chasing 189-6, the West Indies needed 57 from 24 balls with five wickets left after Mitch Marsh took two wickets in an over, before fireworks from Fabian Allen (29 from 14) and Andre Russell (22* from 13) turned the game on its head in St Lucia.

The pair combined for four sixes from five balls in the penultimate over from Riley Meredith, needing 11 off the final over but Starc sent down five dot balls to Russell in the last to earn Australia a win which makes the series 3-1.

Australia captain Aaron Finch had won the toss and elected to bat, starting strongly with the skipper making 53 from 37 balls alongside Mitch, who top scored with 75 from 44 deliveries, in a 114-run stand.

The tourists stumbled in the middle order again, losing 40-5 with Hayden Walsh taking three wickets, before some late hitting from Dan Christian and Starc lifted them to a strong total.

The West Indies flew out of the blocks in their pursuit with Lendl Simmons posting 72 from 48 before the outstanding Marsh (24-3) dismissed him, along with Nicholas Pooran in quick succession.

All seemed lost for the hosts at 132-5 but Allen and Russell offered hope, before Starc's clutch final over.

England captain Eoin Morgan is one of the players back in the fold for the T20I series against Pakistan.

Morgan and vice-captain Jos Buttler are among nine men to return after being forced to self-isolate due to a COVID-19 outbreak among the England squad during their series against Sri Lanka earlier this month.

That meant a completely fresh squad with a raft of debutants was called up for the ODI series versus Pakistan, with Ben Stokes captaining them to a superb 3-0 series win.

Stokes will now rest up, but Lancashire fast bowler Saqib Mahmood has been rewarded with a T20 call-up after taking nine wickets at 13.66 in the ODIs to collect the player-of-the-series award.

Similarly, Somerset all-rounder Lewis Gregory remains with the senior set-up after his superb 77 from 69 deliveries proved crucial alongside James Vince's century in England's thrilling chase of 332 at Edgbaston on Monday.

 

England T20I squad

Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Tom Banton, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Lewis Gregory, Chris Jordan, Liam Livingstone, Saqib Mahmood, Dawid Malan, Matt Parkinson, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, David Willey

The West Indies have clinched their T20 International series against Australia, racing to an unassailable 3-0 lead with a dominant six-wicket win in St Lucia on Monday.

Chris Gayle produced his best knock since his return to the international side, with 67 from 38 balls as the West Indies cruised in the chase, winning with 31 balls to spare.

Stand-in captain Nicholas Pooran (32* from 27 balls) finished the job with back-to-back boundaries off Riley Meredith (48-3) to seal the series victory with two games to play.

Australia captain Aaron Finch won the toss and elected to bat first this time, with his batsmen failing to capitalise on several starts, only managing 141-6.

Moises Henriques top scored with 33, hitting Australia's only two sixes, with Hayden Walsh restricting them with 18-2 from four overs.

The improved Mitchell Starc (18-1 from four) dismissed Andre Fletcher early, bringing Gayle to the crease and the 41-year-old was at his best.

Gayle hit several lusty blows, including seven sixes and four fours in his knock, before edging to wicketkeeper Matthew Wade off Meredith.

RETURN TO FORM FOR GAYLE?

Gayle has made it clear that his return to the West Indies, after two years away, has been inspired by competing at the T20 World Cup later this year.

Despite strong Indian Premier League form, he has struggled upon his return to the international arena, managing only 102 runs in nine innings.

The veteran left-hander made his first T20 International half-century since 2016 with his knock at first drop on Monday.

"From a personal point of view, you all knew I was struggling with the bat, but to be get some runs today it's very pleasing," Gayle said. "I want to dedicate these runs to my teammates, especially Kieron Pollard. He gave me the pep talk I needed."

Gayle made 288 runs in seven innings at an average of 41.14 in the 2020 IPL, before scoring 178 runs in eight knocks in the 2021 edition.

"Looking back, when I got back into the West Indies team against Sri Lanka, I was trying to play a different role, than play Chris Gayle himself," Gayle said. "I didn’t get the runs but the guys rallied around me. It's coming on, my main focus is the World Cup."

AUSSIES T20I WOES CONTINUE

Australia continue to struggle in the shortest format, having been comfortably beaten in all three matches in the series.

Finch, who made 30 from 31 deliveries at the top of the order, felt there was a clear theme to address among the losses.

"Same as the other games, we haven’t had the top order go on deep into the innings," Finch said. "It's been quite similar the whole way through. Credit to the West Indies, they bowled beautifully, especially at the back end."

Australia have only managed scores of 127, 140 and 141-6 in the three T20Is this series, bowled out on both occasions when they have chased.

"We would’ve liked more runs, no doubt," Finch added. "That comes down to the top order not going through. If one of your top four is there through the end you put pressure on the bowlers."

Shimron Hetmyer blasted the West Indies to a 2-0 lead in their five-game T20I series against Australia with a 56-run at St Lucia on Saturday.

Hetmyer arrived at the crease at 44-2 in the sixth over but blasted four sixes on his way to 61 from 36 deliveries.

Australia captain Aaron Finch had won the toss and elected to field, but the West Indies amassed 196-4 buoyed by Hetmyer's knock, piling on 123 runs in the latter 10 overs.

Hetmyer had excellent support from Dwayne Bravo (47* from 34) and Andre Russell (24* from eight), feasting on a wayward Mitchell Starc (49-0 from four overs).

The tourists struggled again with the bat, losing openers Matthew Wade (duck) and Finch (six) cheaply, before being bowled out for 140.

Mitch Marsh, elevated to first drop, top scored with 54 from 42 balls, as Hayden Walsh took 29-3 while Sheldon Cottrell claimed 22-2.

Australia lost 39-7 after Marsh's dismissal to Walsh, with the tourists struggling to offer any significant resistance, managing only two sixes for the innings, compared to the West Indies' 13.

HETMYER HITS 'EM

After Chris Gayle failed, Guyana left-hander Hetmyer stepped up with his 61 being his international T20I best, and also only his second half-century for the West Indies.

Hetmyer said: "I think it was one of my best T20 innings. I paced it quite well. The guys backed me to take it as deep as possible. Once you do that, you have a licence."

The 24-year-old capitalized on that licence, hitting Ashton Agar, Marsh and Adam Zampa for sixes in consecutive overs.

Hetmyer was run out with 13 balls left in the innings, before Bravo and Russell added another 34 runs to set an imposing target.

The pair took a liking to Starc, with 15 runs coming from four balls in the penultimate over.

AUSSIES T20I WOES

Finch declined the blame his decision to bowl first for the defeat, while he also refused to give the series away despite trailing 2-0 and being outplayed so far.

The Australia skipper said: "I don’t think the wicket changed a huge amount. I thought it played pretty well. Chasing 190, you have to get off to a pretty good start and when your two openers get out cheaply, it puts a lot of pressure on a reasonably inexperienced international middle order."

On the series, Finch added: "We have to win three games in the series, doesn’t matter if you do it at the start of the series or come from behind."

This is Australia's first games since losing 3-2 in a five-game T20I series in New Zealand in February and March.

Finch's side also lost 2-1 in a T20I International series away to England in September last year as they strive to find their groove in the shortest format.

West Indies took six Australia wickets for just 19 runs as the hosts secured victory in the sides' T20 opener.

The Windies put on 145-6 in St Lucia, where Obed McCoy and Hayden Walsh did most of the damage with the ball in an 18-run triumph.

Andre Russell's maiden half-century was also a telling contribution in what was a fifth win in six for the Windies against Australia in this format

Australia had looked in good shape after restricting the home side to 35-3 off 7.4 overs, but Russell's 51 came from 28 deliveries to help his side to a credible total.

The tourists lost the dangerous Aaron Finch in the second over of their response before rallying to reach 108-4 at just past the midway point.

With Australia firmly on track for the win, the Windies needed something special and it was McCoy and Walsh who produced the goods.

Wickets tumbled as McCoy took 4-26 and Walsh claimed 3-23, with seven of Australia's batting order limited to a single-figure contribution in an innings where they were all out for 127 in 16 overs.

THE REAL MCCOY

It was a devastating spell with the ball for McCoy, who accounted for Josh Philippe, Ashton Agar, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.

But it wasn't just his wicket-taking that impressed, with McCoy suppressing Australia's run rate by delivering 13 dot balls in a man-of-the-match display.

"It feels great," said McCoy. "I've been working really hard. It was just all about execution and sticking to the team plan.

"Normally on that surface the ball has nice bounce and carry but I was just trying to mix up my pace as much as I can."

NO EXCUSES FROM FINCH

Australia captain Finch offered no excuses for what was a shocking collapse from his side.

Finch admitted his team needed to show a little more intelligence in their approach.

He said: "We've been working on trying to be a little more aggressive in the middle overs but maybe just need to rein it in and have some more smarts.

"I thought the wicket played a little better batting second. There's no excuses for our batting display there.

"You've got to dust yourselves off and come again with the same attitude but just execute a little bit better under pressure."

Captain Stafanie Taylor took four wickets and scored an unbeaten 43 to lead the West Indies Women to a six-wicket victory over Pakistan Women at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua Sunday.

Quinton de Kock and Aiden Markram paved the way for South Africa to claim their first Twenty20 series win since March 2019 as they held off West Indies to secure a 25-run victory.

Having decided to bat first in Grenada, Temba Bavuma's side went on to seal a decisive triumph to round off a 3-2 series success.

De Kock's 60 and Markram's 70 set the tone as the tourists reached 168-4 from 20 overs.

It proved the difference, with Evin Lewis' 52 not enough to inspire the Windies, who also lost the Test series against the Proteas 2-0.

South Africa could hardly have got off to a poorer start, however, with captain Bavuma dismissed on the third delivery of the day.

Yet thanks to the efforts of De Kock – who struck his third straight half-century – and Markram, the Proteas were on 128 by the time they next lost a wicket.

After helping to muster the highest partnership of the series for either side, De Kock picked out Andre Russell off Fidel Edwards' bowling, before Markram, who has now scored 50 or more in four of his last nine T20s, succumbed two overs later.

David Miller added 18 off 16 deliveries to ensure South Africa finished with a flourish.

Lewis went on the attack to get Windies off to a strong start, but by the time he was caught by Markram, the hosts were 75-3, having lost Lendl Simmons and Chris Gayle.

Shimron Hetmyer's 33 included two sixes, but the loss of Kieron Pollard and Andre Russell in swift succession ultimately left the Windies with too much to do, with Nicholas Pooran's dismissal the final blow to their hopes.

DE KOCK LEADS THE WAY

Though Markram was awarded with player of the match, De Kock has enjoyed a brilliant series.

His innings also included four boundaries along with a pair of sixes, while De Kock's total of 225 runs are also the most by a batter in a bilateral series. 

Lungi Ngidi (3-32), was the pick of the bunch from South Africa's bowling attack.

BOUCHER GETS A MONKEY OFF HIS BACK

This was also a huge win for South Africa coach Mark Boucher. The Proteas have hardly had much in the way of consistent success under his coaching unit, albeit the coronavirus pandemic has certainly played a part in that.

Indeed, South Africa were on a five-series losing streak in T20s, but they may just have started to turn things around.

West Indies made it 2-2 in the five-match Twenty20 series against South Africa on Thursday, captain Kieron Pollard top-scoring with 51 and Dwayne Bravo taking four wickets. 

The Windies posted 167-6 and successfully defended the total to ensure everything is still left to play for in Saturday's final match in the T20 series. 

South Africa, who last won a T20 series in March 2019 against Sri Lanka, have not successfully chased a target above 160 since February 2018 when they beat India.

West Indies enjoyed a superb opening over, plundering 20 from the bowling of Aiden Markram – their most in the first over of a T20 and the most by any team batting first in this format.

South Africa responded well to that early setback, however, taking six wickets in the next 15 overs, with George Linde in particularly impressive form, the 29-year-old putting in the most economical performance of his T20 career, conceding just 16 runs in four overs.

The Proteas undermined their efforts in the closing stages as they conceded 66 runs in the final four overs. 

Pollard and Fabian Allen scored six sixes in that period, while the former hit three in three balls off Kagiso Rabada, who bowled his most expensive T20 over.

The impressive Pollard brought up a sixth T20 half-century and his highest score in seven innings as Lungi Ngidi's (0-48) two death overs cost 30 runs. 

Allen suffered what looked like a dislocated shoulder as he tried to cut off a Temba Bavuma sweep as South Africa attempted to start their chase strongly, with his overs made up for by Pollard and Andre Russell. 

Quinton de Kock did his best to drive his team forward, the former captain scoring a second successive half-century (60) and a sixth T20 fifty in his last 15 matches, but no other South Africa batter scored more than 20.

Bravo rolls back the years

Bravo made light of Allen's absence with a superb display. He took the wickets of Linde, de Kock, Tabraiz Shamsi and Ngidi in 12 balls in the closing stages of the match to eventually finish with career-best figures of 4-19.

Rabada sums up Proteas' woes

South Africa's chances of victory collapsed during a dismal final four overs, with Kagiso Rabada particularly generous. His penultimate over of the innings proved to be the most expensive at 25 runs, while he did not complete a full quota of four overs for the first time in a T20 match since his debut in 2014. 

South Africa moved 2-1 ahead in the five-match Twenty20 series against West Indies on Tuesday, Kagiso Rabada holding his nerve to clinch a one-run win in Grenada.

Quinton de Kock marked his 50th international appearance in the format by smashing 72 from 51 deliveries, helping the Proteas to post 167-8 - their highest total so far.

Aiden Markram and Rassie van der Dussen contributed 23 and 32 respectively, yet South Africa lost a clatter of wickets in the closing stages.

Obed McCoy claimed two in the penultimate over as he finished with career-best figures of 4-22. There was also a run out to follow in the next, the last of five wickets to go down for the addition of just 20 runs across the final 18 deliveries.

Evin Lewis (27) and new opening partner Lendl Simmons (22) added 51 for the first wicket in West Indies' reply, yet for the second outing in a row they faltered in the face of high-class spin.

Having claimed 1-16 last time out, Tabraiz Shamsi seemingly turned the match in his team's favour by taking 2-13, Lewis and Shimron Hetmyer (17) the batsmen to depart to the left-arm slow bowler.

Andre Russell blasted 25 in a hurry but his departure at the end of an expensive Anrich Nortje over shifted a see-saw contest back in favour of South Africa. Left needing 15 off the last, West Indies came up just short despite a final-ball six from Fabian Allen.


Proteas set the pace thanks to De Kock

De Kock celebrated reaching a personal milestone with a brutal display of hitting, his 51-ball knock at the top of the order including five fours and two sixes. The wicketkeeper-batsman is in impressive form, having now scored 266 runs in his past five T20 innings away from home.

Call of duty needs a reboot

The West Indies have batted second in each of their past 10 T20I meetings with South Africa, winning the toss in all but one of those games. However, the strategic decision may need a rethink before the sides face each other again, as they have gone on to win on just four of those occasions.

South Africa levelled the five-match Twenty20 series against West Indies at 1-1 as spin played a key role in clinching a 16-run win in Grenada on Sunday.

The Proteas appeared to have failed to capitalise on a strong start with the bat when posting 166-7, only slightly above the total they had been unable to defend in the opening game 24 hours earlier.

West Indies had cruised to an eight-wicket victory on Saturday, but this time around they were bamboozled by South Africa's slow bowlers, George Linde (2-19) and Tabraiz Shamsi (1-16) taking 3-35 from their eight overs combined.

Fabian Allen's late onslaught – the all-rounder smashed 34 off just 12 deliveries – kept his team in with a slender chance, but even three sixes off Lungi Ngidi (1-49) in the 20th over were not enough. The innings finished at 150-9, in the process ending West Indies' two-match winning run in the format.

 

South Africa had appeared on course to set a more challenging target when openers Reeza Hendricks and Quinton de Kock (26) put on 73, the stand coming to an end when the latter fell to Kevin Sinclair (2-23).

Captain Temba Bavuma (46) continued the good work of the first-wicket pairing as the tourists reached the midway stage on 95-1, yet they lost their way in the second half of the innings.

The miserly Sinclair accounted for Hendricks, who made 42, and the promise of a late push was curtailed by regular wickets, the Proteas slipping from 122-3 as Obed McCoy (3-25) excelled with the ball at the death.

The real McCoy? Absolutely!

Left-arm seamer McCoy returned his best T20 figures in international cricket, aided by going for just three runs in the 20th over. His back-of-the-hand slower ball accounted for both Heinrich Klaasen and Linde as South Africa slumped down the stretch, albeit the stuttering finish did not cost them in the end.

Allen just Fab, but still not enough

Andre Fletcher did make 35, but the opener used up 36 deliveries in the process of top scoring for West Indies. In contrast, Allen rushed along at a stunning strike-rate of 283.33 runs per 100 balls. His late cameo included five sixes but Ngidi got him in the end, trapped lbw by a yorker from the penultimate ball.

South Africa welcome back white-ball captain Temba Bavuma but will have to do without Dwaine Pretorius for the five-match T20I series against West Indies after the all-rounder tested positive for coronavirus.

Following their series-sealing Test win in St Lucia, South Africa's squad travelled to Grenada, where all five of the matches will be played at St George's over the course of eight days starting on Saturday.

The remaining players have returned negative COVID-19 tests, but Pretorius is ruled out of the compacted schedule under recovery and return to play protocols despite being asymptomatic.

Wiaan Mulder – who took a remarkable 3-1 in four overs in the first innings of the second Test - will take Pretorius' place in the travelling party, having been retained from the red ball squad, and will hope to add to his solitary T20I cap. Similarly, left-arm seamer Beuran Hendricks had been due to return home after the Tests but has stayed on.

Bavuma missed South Africa's dominant 2-0 Test series triumph, dislocating a finger after being initially laid low with a hip complaint, but the batsman is expected to be fit for the toss as his side look to snap a six-match winless run in the format.

West Indies begin an intensive period of preparation for the defence of the T20 World Cup in India later this year, with the South Africa series the first of three consecutive five-match rubbers.

Australia and Pakistan are also on the agenda for Kieron Pollard's side within the space of the next six weeks.

Star all-rounder Andre Russell is back in the fold alongside batsman Shimron Hetmyer, pace bowlers Sheldon Cottrell and Oshane Thomas and leg-spinner Hayden Walsh Jr.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

West Indies – Evin Lewis

Lewis will be charged with providing the fireworks at the top of the West Indies order – something he relishes. The powerful left-hander is 11 runs away from 1,000 in T20Is. He would be the sixth Windies player to reach the landmark and the second-fastest in terms of innings, with the series opener set to be his 35th. Chris Gayle reached four figures in his 34th match.

South Africa – Aiden Markram

Opener Markram began the Test series with a fifty but could only contribute nought and four to a resounding 158-run win last time out. Nevertheless, he is likely to be in a confident mood heading into a format he relishes. Markram has hit a boundary for every three deliveries faced in T20Is since the beginning of 2019 – the most frequent for any batter to have faced 50 balls or more from a Test-playing country.

KEY OPTA FACTS

- West Indies will be aiming for back-to-back multi-game bilateral men's T20I series victories for the first time since March 2013, following their 2-1 triumph over Sri Lanka in March.
- Ireland defeated West Indies by four runs in the only previous T20I at the National Cricket Stadium in Grenada.
- West Indies have scored 62 per cent of their runs from boundaries in T20Is since the beginning of 2019, the best rate of any Test-playing country and five percentage points higher than South Africa (57 per cent).
- South Africa have a bowling dot-ball percentage of 33 per cent in T20Is since the beginning of 2019, the lowest of any Test-playing country and two percentage points fewer than West Indies (35 per cent).
- South Africa have saved 58 runs when fielding in men's T20Is since the beginning of 2019. Only New Zealand (61) have prevented more in that time amongst Test-playing countries.

Liam Livingstone led England to a Twenty20 series win over Sri Lanka despite the tourists threatening a comeback in Thursday's second match.

In the absence of Jos Buttler, who was nursing a calf injury, Livingstone's 29 from 26 balls ensured an eighth consecutive victory at Sophia Gardens in this format.

After Sri Lanka had posted 111-7, the lowest score England had ever conceded over 20 overs, the hosts survived a wobble high up the order and a rain delay in Cardiff to post 108-5 and win by five wickets via the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern method.

Sam Curran (1-8) produced a finish arguably more worthy of Wembley Stadium to run out Danushka Gunathilaka, side-footing the ball right into the stumps as England made a solid start after losing the toss.

Kusal Perera and Kusal Mendis brought up a partnership of 50 from 53 balls, but the Sri Lanka captain was gone off the next delivery from Mark Wood, a reverse sweep coming right off the toe of the bat and straight to Eoin Morgan.

Wood then claimed two from two deliveries, Bairstow clearing the decks to catch a high ball from Mendis before Morgan was given a simple take at midwicket from Niroshan Dickwella. A hat-trick very nearly followed, Wanindu Hasaranga – who was later stumped by Bairstow from Adil Rashid's delivery – almost edging to slip.

Sri Lanka did at least get to three figures in the final over, Isuru Udana finishing on 19 after a huge swing for six cleared the stands, and when Bairstow and Dawid Malan fell for the loss of eight runs, England's routine-looking chase suddenly seemed uncertain.

Morgan was caught for 11 before Sam Billings and Livingstone steadied the ship, England reaching 69-4 before rain halted proceedings.

Once play resumed with a revised target of 103, Livingstone read a full ball from Dushmantha Chameera and hooked an exquisite shot into the stands to calm any lingering nerves.

Billings was skittled by Hasaranga (2-20) but it mattered little, Curran smashing a six to settle the contest just as the rain began to fall again.

Sri Lanka far too brittle with the bat

England's fifth consecutive T20 win over Sri Lanka had looked nailed on, but it became rather more nail-biting as Hasaranga led an accomplished early attack.

Ultimately, it was too little, too late after another poor batting effort. Sri Lanka entered this match with 28 sixes in T20 matches since the start of 2020, the lowest figure among Test nations, and Udana's final-over flourish produced the only boundaries they managed once Mendis had gone.

 

England make history

England have now won back-to-back multi-game bilateral men's T20 series on home soil for the first time, having beaten Australia 2-1 last September.

While Morgan could only manage 11 runs at a ground where he averaged 102 from his five previous innings, Livingstone and Wood stepped up with bat and ball to make Saturday's third match in Southampton a chance to throw off the shackles.

England maintained their 100 per cent record in Twenty20 games played at Sophia Gardens thanks to a resounding eight-wicket win over Sri Lanka in their series opener.

Jos Buttler made 68 not out as England made it seven wins from seven at the venue in Cardiff, this latest triumph sealed with 17 balls to spare as they easily overhauled Sri Lanka's below-par 129-7.

Jason Roy gave the chase a fast start with 36 from 22 deliveries in an 80-run opening stand with Buttler, who hit eight fours and a six during his 55-ball knock.

Wanindu Hasaranga did excel with the ball for the tourists, giving up just 12 runs in his four-over spell, while Isuru Udana bowled Dawid Malan for seven off 14 balls. Jonny Bairstow finished up unbeaten on 13.

Sri Lanka had earlier been indebted to a half-century from Dasun Shanaka, his second at international level in the format, having opted to bat first after winning the toss.

Danushka Gunathilaka made 19 at the top of the order and captain Kusal Perera contributed 30, but the tourists struggled for momentum as they slipped to 79-5 at the start of the 14th over.

Adil Rashid claimed 2-17 in four economical overs, while there was a wicket for Liam Livingstone too. Shanaka made sure Sri Lanka at least finished strongly, hitting three fours and a pair of sixes as 25 came from the final two overs, but their total was no problem for England's powerful batting line-up.


Opening role just perfect for Buttler

Buttler has made clear his desire to continue opening in T20 action for England - and the numbers support his case. This was his ninth half-century in 20 innings at the top of the order, with the milestone arriving from 38 balls with a pulled four to the square leg boundary.

Tourists toil again in format

Sri Lanka have lost 10 of their previous 11 completed T20 matches, a worrying run of form with a World Cup to come later in the year. They do not have to wait long for an opportunity to draw level in this series at least, as the teams meet again at the same venue on Thursday.

England will be looking to extend their winning streak against struggling Sri Lanka when the Twenty20 series begins on Wednesday in Cardiff.

The three matches between the nations provide an opportunity to continue building towards this year's T20 World Cup, though the hosts are without two key players due to injuries.

Fast bowler Jofra Archer is sidelined after surgery on his right elbow, while Ben Stokes is not yet ready to return to England duty following a broken finger. However, the all-rounder is playing again for Durham, suggesting an international comeback is not too far away.

Reece Topley is another to be ruled out of action, with England opting for David Willey as an alternative left-arm bowling option. Jonny Bairstow and Dawid Malan have been injury doubts ahead of the opening fixture, though captain Eoin Morgan said on Tuesday he expects both to be available.

England's limited-overs skipper was also asked again about the possibility of a return for Alex Hales, with the batsman having not played for England since being withdrawn from the 50-over squad just prior to the 2019 World Cup.

"There are conversations to be had between Alex, myself and the coach and potentially a few of the players," Morgan told the media. "Trying to get those happening in Covid times has been an issue. They will happen at some stage."

England have won three on the spin against Sri Lanka, who have been beaten in nine of their last 10 completed outings in T20 cricket. Their solitary win during the miserable run came against West Indies in March.

In that same month, England lost a hard-fought series in India, going down 3-2 to Virat Kohli's side. Bairstow is one of a number of players back in the fold after heading home from the Indian Premier League earlier than originally scheduled once the tournament was halted due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The hosts have an unblemished record at Sophia Gardens in T20 action too, winning all six games played there. This will be the first time they have hosted Sri Lanka at the venue.


Jonny be good! 

After isolating upon his return from India, Bairstow has been in outstanding form in the domestic T20 competition, the Vitality Blast.

The right-handed batsman has made 295 runs in four outings for Yorkshire, including hitting 112 against Worcestershire when needing a runner for half of his innings due to an injured ankle. Still, there is little need to move when you can hit boundaries – he has managed 26 fours and 18 sixes while scoring at a strike-rate of 175.59 runs per 100 deliveries while in action for his county in that competition.

Opportunity knocks

Chris Woakes is back for England, having not featured in a T20 at international level since November 2015. Like Willey, he will hope to make the most of any opportunity that comes his way in the series, which sees two games staged in the Welsh capital before concluding at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton.

Sri Lanka, too, have some fresh faces: Charith Asalanka, Dhananjaya Lakshan and Ishan Jayaratne have been included in a 24-man squad for both this series and the three one-dayers that follow. The tourists are without former captain Angelo Mathews, however.

Key series facts

- England lost their most recent men's T20I on home soil, against Australia in September 2020; however, the last time they lost two consecutive such matches at home was in August 2013.

- Since the beginning of 2020, Sri Lanka have the second lowest bowling dot-ball percentage (38.3 per cent) of any Test-playing country in the powerplay overs in men’s T20Is (Afghanistan 37.7 per cent).

- Sri Lanka have scored just 53.6 per cent of their runs from boundaries in powerplay overs in T20 games since the beginning of 2020, the lowest rate of any Test-playing country in that time.

- Morgan (201) needs just 13 runs to become the highest run-scorer in men's T20 clashes between England and Sri Lanka (Mahela Jayawardene – 213).

- Chris Jordan (12) needs just two wickets to become the highest wicket-taker in men's T20 games involving England and Sri Lanka (Lasith Malinga – 13).

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