This is uncharted territory for Pakistan. None of the players in the squad have ever played a T20I in Australia before. It makes sense that they haven’t, with Pakistan’s only T20I in Australia coming way back in 2010. It makes less sense, however, that Pakistan have not played a T20I there after the two sides played out a thriller at Melbourne which Australia won by two runs.
The three matches, between the best team T20I in the world for some time and their infamously mean hosts, are sure to serve up some humdingers along the way. Pakistan have never done well in Australia and the Men Down Under are currently hammering a Sri Lanka side that had recently whitewashed Pakistan at home.
Life comes at you fast at this level and new head coach/chief selector MisbahulHaq is already under pressure after the Sri Lanka debacle. All eyes will understandably be on the team that Misbah and new skipper Babar Azamdecide upon for the opening clash in Sydney on Sunday. With so much at stake, the likelihood is that the duo will opt for experience over youth, especially in the bowling department.
Here is a suggested eleven that might represent Pakistan’s best chances of getting a result out of the first game:
Fakhar Zaman: Fakharhas had a poor 2019, making just 48 runs in six matches, yet he remains one of the most feared opening batsmen in the world.The left-hander’s importance is highlighted by how closely his fortunes seem to be connected with Pakistan’s. He averages 30.54 in 23 wins, while his average in nine defeats is 9.11. Fakhar has a healthy record against Australia with an average of 39 and strike-rate of 158.53, and will be crucial if Pakistan are to start strong.
Babar Azam: The new Pakistan skipper is the world’s best batsman and it will be interesting how he shoulders two responsibilities at one time now. Babar appeared to be playing with more abandon in 2019 — his average of 39 is his lowest of any year but his strike-rate of 136.31 is the highest— but the captain’s armband may see him revert to his more measured way.
Haris Sohail: Haris made a golden duck in his only T20I against Australia but has been on a purple patch of late and impressed in the warm-up game alongside Fakhar. The left-hander’s ability to switch between gears means he should get the nod to play at number three ahead of the more circumspectImam-ul-Haq.
Mohammad Rizwan: This is now sink or swim time for Rizwan. Former skipper Sarfaraz Ahmed is no longer part of the side and Rizwan has replaced him almost by default considering the lack of wicketkeeping options.Rizwan’s T20I record leaves a lot to be desired, however, as he would be looking to improve on both his average (16.87) and his strike-rate (100.74) during the series.
Khushdil Shah: The 24-year-old Khushdil is in line to make his debut and will be hoping his strong performances in the recently concluded National T20 Cup will convince the management to select him ahead of Iftikhar Ahmed, who was one of the few players to do well against Sri Lanka. Khushdil’s ability to strike the ball cleanly towards the latter part of the innings may be the missing piece of the jigsaw that the Men in Green have been trying to find for some time now.
Asif Ali: TheIslamabad United bludgeoner’s international career hasn’t quite gone according to plan so far but the right-hander’s ability to pull and cut means he should be well-suited to deal with the famous extra bounce on offer in Australia. Asif’s ability to clear the boundary regularly means he justifies his place in the side despite an average of 19.75 and no half-centuries in 23 T20Is.
Imad Wasim: Imad has blossomed into one of the finest ODI finishers in the world and his strike-rate of 150.61 makes him the most lethal batsman in the entire squad but his average stands at just 14.35. He has made four runs in four T20Is against Australia but can be proud of his bowling record of 6-92 against them. Imad’s bowling has been wonderfully economical in 2019 as he boasts an economy of 5.14. The slow left-armer boasts the second-best T20I career economy of 5.85 behind only New Zealand legend Daniel Vettori, so he will be vital for the side with both bat and ball.
Shadab Khan: Shadab’s struggles in 2019 have been well documented. His bowling average for this year is 50.5 and his economy is 9.18. Before this year, they were 17.16 and 6.58 respectively. Something is wrong with Shadab and it might just be physical and mental fatigue — it is easy to forget that Shadab just recently turned 21. It may, therefore, be tempting to play UsmanQadiror another pacer and remove Shadab from the firing line. However, Shadab is an asset in all three facets of the game and might be considered too important to be dropped.
Wahab Riaz: Arguably the highest point of Wahab’s career was that unforgettable spell in Australia during the 2015 World Cup and at 34, the left-armer will be looking to impress enough to book himself a spot for the T20 World Cup next year. His pace and experience can come in handy if he clicks but his penchant for inconsistency might concern Babar and Misbah.
Mohammad Amir: Like most of his teammates, Amir has struggled in 2019 and his economy of 7.43 this year is his worst since his debut a decade ago. His 16 wickets against Australia are the most against any opposition and have come at an average of just 13.06. If Australia will be wary of one Pakistani pacer, then it’s Amir.
Mohammad Irfan: It has been more than three years since Irfan played a T20I and his international career seemed over for all intents and purposes, but the lanky pacer is back in the squad. His pace has lost a few yards given he is now 37 but his 7 1’ frame will be able to wring out every last inch of extra bounce there is on offer in Australia. Like Wahab, he will be hoping to impress enough to be able to make his swansong at next year’s T20I World Cup.