Hampshire’s Danny Briggs played a starring role as England completed their t20 World Cup preparations with a low-scoring warm-up win against Pakistan in Colombo this morning.
Briggs, opening the bowling, claimed a superb 3-15 off his four over spell as Pakistan, replying to England’s 111 all out, were restricted to 96-9 off their 20 overs.
Briggs dismissed both openers, Mohammad Hafeez and Imran Nazir, and also middle order bat Umar Akmal.
England had to dig deep to pull off the unlikely 15-run victory.
Once again, after their well-chronicled struggles in a 3-0 Test series defeat in the United Arab Emirates last winter, England's batsmen had no answer to the wiles of Saeed Ajmal (4-14) at the P Sara Oval.
But Briggs and Jade Dernbach (3-14) ensured England kept chipping out wickets - even without the rested Graeme Swann and Tim Bresnan - and eventually restricted Pakistan to 96 for nine.
Awkward bounce, spin and swing were available, and after beating Australia by nine runs on Monday, England sneaked home again to head into the defence of their world title with a perfect two-from-two warm-up record.
Luke Wright top-scored with just 38 as they struggled after choosing to bat first on a tricky surface. The number three managed to operate at just over a run-a-ball, a feat which proved beyond the rest of the top five.
England were unable to gather momentum, wickets falling from the outset against Pakistan's spinners and then in a heap - in the space of eight balls - to go from 106 for five to be all out in the final over.
The difficulties began when Alex Hales mis-swept Hasan Raza to short fine-leg in the third over, and the slow left-armer soon had Craig Kieswetter caught at deep midwicket.
Eoin Morgan mustered double-figures but did not convince before falling to only the third delivery from Ajmal, edging an attempted cut behind.
Wright and Jonny Bairstow had to eke out what they could in what turned out to be an important fourth-wicket stand of 34 as England went nine overs at one stage without a boundary.
It was not, in fact, until Bairstow had been yorked by a Yasir Arafat inswinger that new batsman Jos Buttler squeezed a four fine of third-man off the same bowler from only the second ball he faced.
Wright was gone soon afterwards, though, holing out to long-off when Mohammad Sami went full.
It therefore fell to Buttler and Samit Patel to push England at least into three-figures, which they managed comfortably before Ajmal returned to take three wickets in four balls in the penultimate over as Stuart Broad and Steven Finn made ducks.
In Pakistan's reply, Kieswetter missed an obvious stumping chance off only the second ball of the innings from Briggs. But it cost nothing, Mohammad Hafeez swinging the slow left-armer to deep square-leg, where Bairstow took a neat catch.
Briggs had a second wicket in his third over, drawing Imran Nazir out of his ground and turning the ball past the outside-edge for an easy stumping.
Patel replaced Briggs and struck with his first delivery, spinning one back through left-hander Nasir Jamshed's defences.
It still seemed to be Pakistan's great advantage that they knew they had only a meagre total to chase.
But Broad outwitted Asad Shafiq with a slower ball, clumped to mid-off, and the England captain then had Shahid Afridi caught-behind with some extra bounce.
England had successfully narrowed the equation back in their favour, thanks largely to Broad's remarkable economy - he, like Briggs, even bowled a maiden - when the charge should have been on.
The outcome nonetheless remained too close to call until Dernbach had 20 runs to play with in the final over, and managed to concede only four for two more wickets.