Shahid Afridi gone, Malik still there, and this game too like the initial two could have gone either way. For the second time in the series, Afridi had turned the game on its head but left it for the “genuine” batsman to finish. Sarfaraz went, played on, in the last over of the 2nd game as Pakistan fell 3 short. 2 required from the 2 in the 3rd as Malik perished. Sohail Tanveer managed to sneak a bye off the last delivery to take it to a super over, which England won on the back of a brilliant over from Jordan.

On a typically dry, initially shiny, legendary Sharjah track in the 3rd T20I; Pakistan came out with clouds hovering overhead of being dropped to 6th in the rankings. England had managed an unassailable lead earlier in the three match series after two nail biting contests. Pakistan had to chase for the third time this series as luck had not been on their side in terms of the toss as in the 2012 T20 series where they were put in to field in the last two games and couldn’t chase down 150 and 129 – Captain Broad decided to bowl first in the first game which Pakistan won by 8 runs.

Ahead of the ICC World T20 2016, with teams looking to get the right combination, experimentations were a prime the most notable of which was the debut of the 39 year old veteran Rafatullah Mohmand who had been a consistent performer in the domestic circuit in recent years. Unfortunately he never really looked settled in his innings, was troubled by almost every bowler and went for 16, 23 and a golden duck in the three games respectively. The start of the 3rd game saw Aamer Yamin, a promising young all-rounder, making his T20 debut and straight away taking a wicket on his very first delivery but bowled just the 2 overs for 12 runs. The debutant from England James Vince was named man of the series with 125 runs. He batted courageously on all three outings, taking England to a situation from where the likes of Buttler, Billings and Woakes came and took advantage, despite wickets tumbling around him. Vince would hold an end firm as boundaries rained from the other. Pakistan had the situation under control but, not for the first time, let it slip through their fingers.

The star with the ball for England was Liam Plunkett. Liam Plunkett who took 6 wickets in two matches bowled ferociously with pace and bounce consistently over 90mph. He was accompanied by Reece Topley in the first match who took 3 wickets as well and was rested for the final two games. Stephen Perry, the left arm spinner, also took 3 wickets in 2 matches going at 8.35 in both matches. He varied his pace but at times was extremely slow giving the ball a lot of air inviting mistakes from Pakistani batsmen.

Chasing decent totals put on the board by England, the Pakistani top order crumbled in the 1st and 3rd games while the middle order threw away a decent start in the second game. This has been exaggerating the burden on the lower order which has done more with the bat than its cut out for. Playing spin was a problem for Pakistan as a few couldn’t pick the ball out of the leg spinner Rashid’s hand and went in very ordinary fashion. There were 11 scores in the 20s in this series by Pakistan and just one above which reflects the fact that Pakistan’s top 6 batsmen have averaged 21.03 at an average of 113.74 and just 23% of the times have gone on to make a score above 30 while the top 6 batsmen for the rest of the 7 top teams in the rankings average 26.38 striking at 128.19 runs per 100 balls faced and have a 30+ scoring frequency of 31.5%.

The highlight in this series for Pakistan was Shahid Afridi. Since the world T20 2014, he had averaged 12.2 with the bat and 51.5 with the ball going at 7.53 to the over in 11 matches. Leading up to and post the first T20 there were questions on Shahid Afridi’s place in the side that despite being the optimal candidate to lead the team to the world T20 2016 (although having just 15 wins from 32 games as captain) he needed to cement his place in the side. These were answered in the most Pakistani way they could. Having gone at 8.25 to the over without a wicket and a duck in the first T20, he came out with figures of 3-15 and 2-18 and a quick fire 24 and 29 in the 2nd and 3rd games respectively. Suddenly, the drift was there, the ideal pace was there, the release and consistency was there and with the bat, the timing and connection was there; all like at the twilight of his bowling career from 2007-2011 and this means nothing but chaos for the opposition – although the batting has been inconsistent as this throughout his career with mere sparks of brilliance -  but despite all this, Pakistan just couldn’t get over the line in this series which keep the debates for Afridi’s “aggressive” captaincy open as his field placing and utilization of bowlers had been questioned at times.

3 games; each more tense and exciting than the previous; called the end of a tough, competitive series for both teams. Although Waqar Younis has had about a year and a half with this team in his second tenure as coach, it’s been a rough time as Pakistan drops to 8th in ODI and 6th in T20 rankings. With the T20 WC in sight, Pakistan have series against India and New Zealand to get their act together before the Asia cup – now T20 format – and the ICC World T20 in mid-march. They’re trying out different combinations and different players to find the right 11 ahead of these which has meant that some key players have had to sit out as others showcase their talent. This long term approach has on record proved hazardous for the team in short term seeing Pakistan winning just 11 out of their last 23 games; 4 of which were victories against Zimbabwe and most have been taken down to the wire and the lower order has had to pitch in. Pakistan need to get their act together before things start to get out of hand back at home as they now prepare to take on arch rivals India in a neutral venue, Sri Lanka, ahead of the major tournament.