Pakistan are closing in on a series victory after holding off England to win the fifth T20 to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven contest.
After a back-and-forth first four games in the series, the hosts finally got their noses in front for the first time with a narrow six-run success in the fifth T20 on Wednesday and now just to need to win one of the two remaining matches to secure the series.
After being in a good position to win the fourth T20 on Sunday, England will again feel they have thrown away a good opportunity to maintain the upper hand and now find themselves up against the wall knowing one more defeat spells the end of their series hopes.
|What||Pakistan vs England, 6th Twenty20 Match|
|Where||Gaddafi Stadium, Lahore|
|When||15:30, Friday 30th September, 2022|
|How to watch||Sky Sports Main Event & Cricket|
|Odds||Pakistan, 10/11 England 10/11|
For the second time in as many matches England will have felt they were in the better position going into their run chase, only to shoot themselves in the foot and ultimately come up short.
The margin of defeat was slightly greater than Sunday's three-run reverse, but losing by just six runs suggests that things could so easily have been different going into the last two matches.
The Three Lions are now behind in the series for the first time and it will be interesting to see if that different kind of pressure affects their approach in the final two matches in Lahore.
Wednesday's fifth T20 was the first match of the series to be played at the Gaddafi Stadium, with the first four having taken place at Karachi's National Stadium, and it turned out to be the lowest scoring match of the series thus far.
Despite the 145 posted by Pakistan after being put into bat looking a little under par, the hosts defended the target with relative ease after taking early wickets in the powerplay before the spinners took a stranglehold of the middle overs.
Stand-in captain Moeen Ali's unbeaten 51, which came off 37 balls and included four sixes, got England close but he was ultimately left with too much to do with very little support in the death overs.
It does not take a genius to pinpoint the key player for home hopes and England need to find a way of solving the problem, with Mohammad Rizwan head and shoulders above any other batsman in the series.
The right-handed opener has cracked 315 runs in the first five matches at an average of 78.75, passing 50 on four occasions with just one failure, and he has top-scored for his side three times.
It is no surprise to see him installed as the 15/8 favourite to lead the way for his side once again on Friday as there are realistically few to challenge him from what has been so far in the series.
Captain Babar Azam - second in the series aggregate, a whopping 121 runs behind Rizwan - has outscored his opening partner on just one occasion, scoring the only century of the series so far in the 10-wicket win in the second T20, and he perhaps offer a little value at 12/5, while Shan Masood scored an unbeaten 65 when both openers failed in the third T20.
Masood is priced at 5/1 to top score for Pakistan on Friday but it is worth noting that he has only scored 35 runs in his other four matches and it looks something of a leap of faith to go with someone other than the openers.
Rizwan looked like he was playing on a different pitch to everyone else on Wednesday in the first match in Lahore until Moeen Ali threw caution to the wind, and England need to get him out early to massively increase their chances of levelling the series.
Jos Buttler's absence so far robs England of arguably the best T20 batter in world cricket but they do not appear to be short of options, certainly appearing to have greater strength in depth than their hosts.
Alex Hales has hardly made the most of his return from exile, scoring 53 in the first T20 but only 32 more in his next three appearances, while Will Jacks has mustered only 40 runs in his two matches.
Phil Salt has been donning the gloves with Buttler unavailable but has not staked his claim overly well, having scored 59 runs in five matches at an average of 11.80, while Dawid Malan has not replicated the form that saw him lead the T20 batting rankings at one point, scoring 70 runs in four matches at an average of 17.50.
Chasing smaller targets in the last two T20s, England's top-order failure played significant roles in their undoing, losing three wickets in the powerplay to put the skids under their efforts.
There has been promise in the middle order though with Harry Brook more than justifying his inclusion to lead England's run-scoring charts with 192 at an average of 64.00, while Ben Duckett is not too far behind with 177 at 44.25.
Moeen has shown he is also in good nick ahead of the World Cup with 142 runs and three not outs in his four innings, and those three in-form players offer a bit of value to top-score for England on Friday with Duckett on offer at 9/2, Brook currently at 5/1 and Moeen at 17/2.
Lahore's first encounter on Wednesday saw each side gain the upper hand through markedly different avenues, with the sheer pace of Mark Wood - who may well be rested on Friday - and general use of the short ball allowing England's attack to gain control.
Only three Pakistan batters made double figures while all four touring pace bowlers got amongst the wickets, with sole spinner Adil Rashid going unrewarded at 10.25 an over.
In contrast, despite England losing wickets in the powerplay to pace, it was the slow bowlers that took a real grip of the game for Pakistan, with Iftikhar Ahmed bowling a miserly four overs and taking 1-16 while Shadab Khan claimed 1-25 off his allotment.
It will be intriguing to see what the toss-winning captain will now do in the sixth instalment on Friday, with four of the five matches played so far seeing the losing side put into bat, while the only time a team elected to bat first they lost by 10 wickets.
The chasing side won the first two T20s while they have lost the last three, and there has been success for both pace and spin.
England may well feel they should have won the last two matches to go into this sixth encounter with a 4-1 lead and they may well be worth siding with to take this series into a decider, given the hosts' over-reliance on their two openers and the greater batting depth for the tourists.