England, Pakistan build towards World Twenty20 - First T20I preview
England have only played four T20 matches - winning three - since the last World Cup in Bangladesh, a competition they struggled badly in, so they are inexperienced as a group.
Such is the paucity of experience Eoin Morgan’s side has, the upcoming three games present them with an important opportunity to prepare for greater challenges ahead.
England will play two T20 games on their tour of South Africa before the World Cup but conditions will be vastly different to those they will find in India.
England had a comfortable warm up victory over the UAE in a one-sided game which won’t have told them much. Their recent one-day form is perhaps a better indicator and there is no doubt that their side is full of explosive T20 players.
England’s batting looks strong and dynamic. Alex Hales and Jason Roy both scored their maiden ODI hundreds in the recent series against Pakistan and are two of the standout performers in the English domestic T20 game.
The middle order of Joe Root, Morgan and Jos Buttler possess hard hitters and innovators and Moeen Ali and David Willey will provide plenty of lower order ballast.
Hampshire’s James Vince has been added to the squad and will likely get an opportunity at some stage.
England bat deep, and with Buttler back to his sparkling best with a hundred in the fourth ODI, have players in form.
An area that Morgan and coach Trevor Bayliss will want to evaluate is the strength of the bowling attack. Reece Topley is one of the best T20 bowlers in England with the new ball and at the death whilst Chris Woakes’ ability to bowl quick yorkers will be vital in the last four overs.
Stephen Parry, Lancashire’s left-arm spinner, is likely to play alongside Adil Rashid and Ali as the spin options but overall it is an inexperienced attack in subcontinental conditions although all of the players have played a lot of English domestic cricket.
Pakistan have won their last seven T20 games, including a warm up game against Hong Kong on Monday.
Their T20 squad sees more changes to the players involved in the ODI series than England have made. Shahid Afridi returns to captain the side and Umar Akmal and Sohail Tanvir also come in to the squad.
Tanvir is another left-arm bowler to add to Mohammad Irfan and Wahab Riaz, two excellent one-day cricketers. Tanvir is a very experienced T20 bowler who bowls off the wrong foot. He won the Indian Premier League with the Rajasthan Royals when Shane Warne led the side to the title back in 2008.
There is no Yasir Shah in the squad, meaning that spin duties will be filled by Afridi, Bilal Asif and Shoaib Malik.
Ahmed Shehzad, surprisingly left out of the ODI side, will open the innings alongside Rafatullah Mohmand, a 39 year-old on the cusp of an unlikely international debut.
Pakistan’s middle order of Akmal, Malik and Mohmmad Rizwan looks dangerous but the batting line up has question marks, especially after performing so poorly in the one-day series. Afridi will hope that some changes to personnel will do the trick.
Unfortunately, Pakistan’s players are for now banned from taking part in the IPL which is a real shame. Morgan is England’s only current player to be a regular in the competition, although players such as Woakes have competed in Australia’s Big Bash, with Willey to join him next month.
England also have Paul Collingwood in their coaching set up. In 2010 Collingwood captained England to triumph in the T20 World Cup in the West Indies and his knowledge of that campaign, as well as from being a current player, could prove invaluable for Morgan and his men.
The first two games of the series are in Dubai with the third game in Sharjah. In 2014, New Zealand played Pakistan twice in Dubai and the winning scores were 144 and 140. This suggests a slow pitch and it is unlikely to be a high scoring game. Scores of over 150 by the side batting first will be tough to chase down.
For both teams, these three games will be vital in their preparation for the T20 World Cup next year.
Usually international T20 matches don’t have much context – there is an argument they shouldn’t be played at international level – but that is not the case with this series. It should be an intriguing and meaningful set of games.
Pakistan have a strong bowling attack but England’s batting looks formidable. If they bat first, England should win comfortably. If they chase, their task will be harder but they should still have enough.
1. Alex Hales, 2. Jason Roy, 3. Joe Root, 4. Eoin Morgan, 5. Jos Buttler, 6. Moeen Ali, 7. Chris Woakes, 8. David Willey, 9. Adil Rashid, 10. Stephen Parry, 11. Reece Topley
1. Ahmed Shehzad, 2. Rafatullah Mohmand, 3. Shoaib Malik, 4. Mohammad Rizwan, 5. Umar Akmal, 6. Shahid Afridi (captain), 7. Bilal Asif, 8. Sohail Tanvir, 9. Wahab Riaz, 10. Anwar Ali, 11. Mohammad Irfan
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