England (172-8) defeated Pakistan (169-8) by three runs.

Shahid ‘Boom Boom’ Afridi almost pulled off a remarkable turnaround in Dubai yesterday, but his all-action performance was ultimately in vain for Pakistan. England’s nerve-jangling victory by just three runs ensured a series win in the three-match Twenty20 mini contest. Allied to their earlier ODI series victory in the UAE, it has been a good few weeks for Eoin Morgan’s short format teams.

England had posted another competitive score when batting first, although they perhaps failed to fully capitalise towards the end when the magic figure of 200 was a distinct possibility.

Instead they had to settle for 172-8 from their 20 overs, as Hampshire’s James Vince again excelled to top score with 38 runs from just 24 deliveries.

Captain for the day, Jos Buttler weighed in with a sprightly 33 that included three hefty sixes. Cameos from Jason Roy (29) and Joe Root (20) promised much, but there was perhaps a slight disappointment that no player could reach the half-century bed-rock innings that could have pushed the overall score even higher.

Afridi was as wily and economical as ever with the ball for Pakistan. His eye-catching figures of 3-15 from four overs took him to another milestone as the highest wicket-taker in international T20 Cricket. As his fellow bowlers toiled, their captain ensured that England’s potential middle-order fireworks from Sam Billings (11) and Buttler were kept in check.

Pakistan started promisingly in reply and a half-century opening partnership between Rafatullah Mohmand and Ahmed Shehzad (28) put them well on track to square the series. Both fell shortly afterwards though, thanks to two stumpings by Buttler to reduce the hosts to 60-2 and put the game back in the balance.

With Adil Rashid (2-18) having one of his good days with the ball and Yorkshire compatriot Liam Plunkett chipping in with 3-33, Pakistan fell well behind their chase at 120-6.

That marked the end of Shoaib Malik’s enterprising knock of 26, and with his demise the odds seemed stacked in the visitors’ favour.

Yet Afridi has a reputation as a game-changer in limited overs cricket and he very nearly pulled off another improbable masterstroke. He certainly raised the expectation levels in the stands as they suddenly found their voices.

Chris Woakes will not look back on his third over with any affection as Afridi piled on the pressure. A confusing mixture of a wide, no ball and wonderful hitting gave the expectant crowd renewed hope. Afridi’s frenetic 24 from a barely believable eight (legitimate) deliveries, including successive sixes suddenly made Pakistan favourites for the victory.

Woakes persevered though and finally got his man, as Plunkett took the catch to dismiss Afridi. That set up an exhilarating final two overs and a simple equation: could Pakistan score the 25 runs required to win or would England bowl tightly enough to keep them in check?

As they entered the final over the game remained on a knife-edge with still 11 runs required by Pakistan and three wickets in hand.

But Buttler maintained his faith in Woakes to continue his spell. He did not disappoint his skipper, bowling Sarfraz Ahmed and then holding his nerve and control as Pakistan fell agonisingly short by a mere 3 runs on 169-8.

The victory ensured an unassailable lead at 2-0 for England in the T20 series, with only one match remaining. Morgan and the selectors will have gained a valuable insight into the character of his personnel after such a narrow success.

Plunkett’s second solid bowling performance in succession will no doubt continue the debate concerning his surprise exclusion from the upcoming South African tour. That curiosity aside, England seem to be developing a capable one-day squad for the future.