Sam Billings leads England to T20 win over Pakistan in Dubai
|First T20 international, Dubai|
|England 160-5 (20 overs): Billings 53 (25), Morgan 45 (38)|
|Pakistan 146 (20 overs): Plunkett 3-21, Topley 3-24|
|England won by 14 runs|
Sam Billings' thrilling half-century led England to a 14-run win over Pakistan and a 1-0 lead in the three-match Twenty20 series.
Billings, in the side for the rested Jos Buttler, blasted 53 from 25 balls to take the tourists to 160-5 in Dubai.
They had earlier been rescued from 19-3 by Eoin Morgan (45 not out) and debutant James Vince (41).
Pakistan slipped to 42-4 and 75-7 and only reached 146 as England leaked runs at the end of the innings.
England, who won the one-day series 3-1 after losing the Tests 2-0, have now won four successive T20 internationals.
Their build-up to the World T20 in India in March continues on Friday at the same ground.
Who needs Jos Buttler?
Morgan explained the omission of Buttler and Joe Root was to give opportunities to others before the World T20.
The absence of Buttler, who struck a 46-ball hundred in the final one-day international, came as the biggest surprise, with the likes of Michael Vaughan and Kevin Pietersen tweeting their disapproval.
Still, the man who took the gloves in his place, Billings, provided the catalyst for England's victory.
When he arrived at the end of the 14th over, England were 95-4 and the game was in the balance. By the time he was run out off the last ball of the innings, he had blasted the tourists to a winning score.
Time and again he targeted the on side - all of his boundaries came off his legs. In one seven-ball spell, he took three fours and two sixes, including two outrageous and inventive back-to-back scoops off the 90mph Wahab Riaz that went for six and four.
His 24-ball half-century is the joint-second fastest by an England batsman in T20 internationals, after the 23-ball fifty of Ravi Bopara against Australia in 2014.
Or Joe Root?
That Billings was able to play so destructively was thanks to the rebuilding work done by Morgan and T20 debutant Vince, batting at number three in place of Root.
When Morgan joined Vince in the fourth over, England had slumped to 19-3 after Jason Roy, Alex Hales and Moeen Ali all offered simple catches to the ring fielders.
As Morgan favoured accumulation mixed with the occasional big stroke, Vince looked to give himself room to play through the off side, while still being able to pick the pace of Imran Khan over the leg side for six.
A maiden half-century looked to be for the taking until Riaz's change of pace took the off stump. Vince swiped the ground in frustration, but he had laid the platform for England's victory.
Pakistan were set their sixth highest successful T20 chase, but three of their best five have come in 2015.
However, they were on the back foot immediately, with each of the top three - including 39-year-old debutant Rafatullah Mohmand - holing out on the leg side.
Sohaib Maqsood and Umar Akmal briefly flickered with a maximum apiece but a comical mix-up that had both men sprinting for the same end began a collapse of three wickets for one run.
Anwar Ali fought with twin sixes off the left-arm spin of Stephen Parry before he was caught in the covers to give Liam Plunkett a third wicket.
With the result seemingly assured, England, and Chris Jordan in particular, became slightly ragged. Ninth-wicket pair Riaz and Sohail Tanvir shared 43 at 10 an over, leaving 19 needed from the final six balls.
Reece Topley had Riaz caught down the ground and last man Imran Khan held behind off the final ball to finish with 3-24.
What they said
England batsman Sam Billings told BBC Sport: "It's a pleasure to put a performance in for a winning side. It was thoroughly enjoyable with the captain out there as well.
"We got told what the team would be yesterday. As a squad we have been well-drilled throughout this tour so anyone is ready to take a place and take an opportunity.
"There are areas that we can all work on. It's really exciting that we can still improve so hopefully throughout the series we can get better and better."
England captain Eoin Morgan: "Tonight was a really strong performance in which we showed a lot of character. To come back from 19-3 and then to defend 160 was really good. It's always a good sign of a changing room when players who haven't played all tour come out and perform - I'm really proud of them."
Pakistan captain Shahid Afridi: "We don't have any excuses for this. That was a chaseable total, but we batted very poorly. I know we lost this game but we've got some positive things from it."