England are touring Pakistan after 17 years for a historic series of seven T20Is.
As England tour Pakistan for the first time since 2005, the tour itinerary comprises of seven T20is. The first four games are set to be played in Karachi, while we move to Lahore for the following three fixtures.
Having touched down in Karachi on Thursday, England have had plenty of time to hit the nets and get in prime shape for the series. The Pakistan squad, on the other hand, has returned to practice after a disappointing loss in the final to Sri Lanka in the recently concluded Asia Cup. For both sides, however, the series will serve as an opportunity to find their best eleven ahead of the T20 World Cup next month.
The National Stadium Karachi, which is set to host the first four games, is somewhat of a fortress for the green shirts. With seven wins out of seven at the venue, the hosts will certainly be confident of bolstering their record further. With true batting tracks on offer, expect lots of runs to be scored.
Surfaces at the Gaddafi Stadium in Lahore, too, are batting friendly. The hosts have a promising record at the venue, with nine wins out of fifteen games. Although the toss is certainly not a decisive factor, naturally, runs on the board will be key for both sides.
Babar Azam (captain), Shadab Khan (vice-captain), Aamer Jamal, Abrar Ahmed, Asif Ali, Haider Ali, Haris Rauf, Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, Mohammad Haris, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Nawaz, Mohammad Rizwan, Mohammad Wasim Junior, Naseem Shah, Shahnawaz Dahani, Shan Masood and Usman Qadir
Despite a rather successful Asia Cup campaign, Pakistan’s approach towards the format has been the talking point. Notwithstanding, the management has publicly decided to back their selections, retaining most of the squad. Two anchors at the top, followed by an out-of-favor middle order, has meant that Pakistan’s batters have often folded under pressure.
Much of the talk has been regarding the intent in the powerplay. However, the middle order’s showings have been an area of major concern too. The inclusion of Shan Masood at the expense of the injured Fakhar Zaman could prove to be vital, giving the side balance through the middle overs. The trio of Iftikhar Ahmed, Khushdil Shah, and Asif Ali have failed to make much of an impression this year. Their weakness versus spin is a concern, and the strike rates, too, have been under criticism.
On the bowling front, Pakistan have enjoyed success, having bowled well as a unit. The spin bowling duo of Shadab Khan and Mohammad Nawaz have picked up regular wickets and bowled very economically. On top of that, both all-rounders have chipped in handily with the bat, often contributing in the middle order. The pacers have enjoyed success, too, with Naseem Shah turning heads and Haris Rauf being potent yet again.
The hosts will look to start the series with a full-strength side, but opportunities for the bench players will arise as the series proceeds. Shan Masood is expected to earn his debut cap and bat at number three. A toss-up between Khushdil Shah and Haider Ali could arise, but the former is expected to retain his spot.
- Mohammad Rizwan (wk)
- Babar Azam (c)
- Shan Masood
- Iftikhar Ahmed
- Khushdil Shah
- Asif Ali
- Shadab Khan
- Mohammad Nawaz
- Naseem Shah
- Haris Rauf
- Mohammad Hasnain
Jos Buttler (captain), Moeen Ali (vice-captain), Harry Brook, Jordan Cox, Sam Curran, Ben Duckett, Liam Dawson, Richard Gleeson, Tom Helm, Alex Hales, Will Jacks, Dawid Malan, Adil Rashid, Phil Salt, Olly Stone, Reece Topley, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Luke Wood, and Mark Wood
Having lost to India and South Africa recently in the format, England will be eager to bounce back and make amends ahead of the mega event. With Liam Livingstone, Jonny Bairstow, and Chris Jordan ruled out due to injury, the visitors look rather frail on paper. However, the addition of Alex Hales could prove to be vital. The dynamic right-hander has enjoyed tremendous success in leagues around the world and is well acquainted with surfaces in Pakistan. Watch out for the big-hitting duo of Will Jacks and Jordan Cox, both of whom have been in cracking form in the Vitality Blast and The Hundred.
England’s success will undoubtedly depend on their skipper’s run-scoring form. In the last two years, the right-hander has been perhaps the most well-rounded batter in the format – in terms of a combination of average and strike rate. His contributions at the top will be of prime importance, especially in the absence of other big names.
In conditions generally favoring spin bowling, Moeen Ali will have a major impact on England’s performances on the tour. In the last two years, the all-rounder has more than just complemented Adil Rashid – picking up wickets with exemplary control. His batting numbers, too, are praiseworthy. With a strike over 150, Ali’s power in the middle order is likely to dictate games at the back end.
Although England’s bowlers struggled versus South Africa, the return of Chris Woakes and Mark Wood will provide valuable experience to the side. Apart from that, Adil Rashid and Moeen Ali’s showings in the middle overs against an out-of-form Pakistan middle order will be a decisive matchup.
Jos Buttler’s fitness has improved, but the 32-year-old is expected to rest for the initial part of the series. In his absence, Alex Hales is likely to slot in at the top of the order. The mix of the middle order looks uncertain, with Harry Brook likely to play a pivotal role. The pace-bowling seems sorted, with plenty of all-round options as well. However, various reports indicate that the trio of Woakes, Wood, and Topley may not participate in the initial games.
- Alex Hales
- Phil Salt
- Dawid Malan
- Ben Duckett
- Harry Brook
- Moeen Ali (c)
- Sam Curran
- David Willey
- Adil Rashid
- Luke Wood
- Richard Gleeson
Ahead of the T20 World Cup in October, the seven-game series will primarily serve both sides an opportunity to find their preferred combinations. All in all, expect seven high-voltage games in front of jam-packed stadiums.