Visitors expected to make changes after difficult first game
Pakistan were lucky to avoid what seemed like certain defeat in the opening game when rain stopped Australia’s charge at 41-0 as they chased down 119 in 15 overs. Australia’s sheer dominance with both bat and ball will surely prompt skipper Babar Azam and head coach Misbah-ul-Haq to make changes ahead of the second game at the Manuka Oval.
Here are the eleven players that Pakistan might go with:
Fakhar Zaman: Fakhar’s dramatic slump in 2019 continued with a golden duck and the left-hander has only 48 runs in seven matches this year. However, his previous performances as well as his ability to give the side a blistering start when he does get going means he is almost certain to retain his place for the remainder of the series. Fakhar is Pakistan’s highest ranked batsman after Babar and is still one of the purest hitters of the cricket ball in the side.
Babar Azam: Pakistan’s new skipper and talisman appears to be heads and shoulders above his teammates and he highlighted that with an unbeaten 59 off 38 deliveries. Babar seemed to be playing on a different pitch to his compatriots as the remaining 52 balls of the innings yielded a mere 47 runs off the bat for the loss of five wickets. The number one batsman in the world seems to be the only thing keeping Pakistan in the number one T20I spot.
Haris Sohail: The left-hander could make only four runs in the first game as his brain fade left Pakistan reeling at 10-2 inside two overs in the opening game. His recent good form should see him retain his place ahead of Imam-ul-Haq despite his poor outing in the opener. Haris’s spin bowling might also be utlised by Babar at some point in the series.
Mohammad Rizwan: Rizwan’s 31 off 33 deliveries came at a time when Pakistan needed to consolidate, going some way to justify his slow knock, but he will be disappointed in the way he lost his wicket after getting set at a time when the visitors needed to up the scoring rate. Rizwan’s career strike-rate in T20I cricket is now under a hundred — a cardinal sin for any top-level batsman in the format. With Babar effortlessly anchoring the innings in almost every game, Rizwan needs to start scoring at a faster rate.
Iftikhar Ahmed: Iftikhar was preferred over Khushdil in the opener after doing well in the Sri Lanka series and it will be very harsh for the batsman to lose his place in the side after facing only a single delivery in the opening game. The Peshawar-born is also a handy part-time spinner, which might come in useful if any of the bowlers get the treatment that Mohammad Irfan got in the first game.
Asif Ali: One of only three batsmen in the Pakistan side to get into double figures but Asif won’t be happy with his 11 runs in 10 deliveries. The late-middle-order batsman is in the side mainly for his ability to clear the boundary so he will be particularly miffed at the way he found the fielder trying a typical big hit off a slower Kane Richardson delivery. Khushdil will be knocking on Asif’s door but the right-hander might get at least one more game to impress.
Imad Wasim: Imad made the second golden duck of Pakistan’s innings when he, like Fakhar before him, found Steve Smith off the very first delivery he faced from Mitchell Starc. Rain meant he wasn’t able to try his arm on what seemed like a slow pitch that might have helped his slow left-armers and he will be eager to make more of an impact in the next game.
Shadab Khan: Played no part in the game with either bat or ball and will be hoping to address his poor form, especially with the ball, in Canberra.
Wahab Riaz: Like Shadab, Wahab’s contributions were restricted strictly to fielding. Irfan’s struggles in the opening game might see him get the new ball alongside Mohammad Amir in the second game.
Mohammad Amir: Amir bowled with accuracy and control in the seven deliveries that he managed in Sydney before rain halted proceedings. Babar will be hoping the left-arm pacer can stop the flow of runs early on, a difficult task considering the form of Australia’s top three batsmen.
Musa Khan: A nightmare return to international cricket for Irfan where he was smashed for 26 runs in his second over by Aaron Finch means his second coming will not last too long. Mohammad Hasnain has struggled for control in international cricket and Musa Khan might be favoured to his fellow teenage prodigy.