Dubai, (AFP): Paceman Umar Gul took 3-18 to inspire Pakistan to a thrilling eight-run win in the first of three Twenty20 internationals against England at Dubai Stadium on Thursday. England, the reigning Twenty20 world champions, were cruising at 120-4 after 17 overs, chasing 145 to win, but Gul took two wickets in the 18th over for just three runs to change the complexion of the game, eventually restricting England to 136-6.
Graeme Swann rocked the middle-order with a burst of three wickets off eight balls to restrict Pakistan, put into bat, to 144-6 with Shoaib Malik making 39.
Ravi Bopara (39) and Jonny Bairstow (22 not out) had added 33 for the fourth wicket but Gul dismissed Bopara with the fifth ball of the 16th over and then had Jos Butler (three) and Samit Patel (nought) in the next to bring Pakistan closer to victory.
With 18 needed off the final over bowled by Junaid Khan, England managed just nine.
England were set on the chase by Kevin Pietersen (33) as they reached 48 by the sixth over but Pakistan came back when Shahid Afridi dismissed the in-form Pietersen.
Pietersen, who made back-to-back hundreds in England's 4-0 win in the preceding one-day series, holed out to Shafiq.
Off-spinner Mohammad Hafeez, who finished with 2-18, chipped in with the wickets of Craig Kieswetter (14) and dangerous looking Eoin Morgan (14) to leave England at 80-3, a position from where they should have won but Gul's spirited bowling made the difference.
Pakistan too made a flying start with debutant Awais Zia hitting a four and six during his 12-ball 18 but Pakistan lost four wickets in the space of eight runs as Asad Shafiq (19) fell run out, Mohammad Hafeez (23), Shahid Afridi (seven) and Umar Akmal (nought) followed each other, with Swann taking the last three.
It was left to captain Misbah-ul Haq (26 not out) and Malik (39) to put on 71 for the sixth wicket to take Pakistan to a respectable total.
Malik hit four boundaries and six off 33 balls before he fell to a superb catch by Bairstow off Jade Dernbach off the last ball of the innings.
Misbah gave Malik good support during his run-a-ball innings, hitting one four and a six. Swann finished with 3-13.
Pakistan brought in Zia and allrounder Hammad Azam while Bopara and Swann returned for England after missing the fourth one-dayer due to fitness problems.
The second match will be played here on Saturday, while the final match is in Abu Dhabi on February 27.