England vs Pakistan 1st T20I Preview: Babar's boys out to arrest T20 slump as England aim to continue white-ball domination
The return of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz could mean that both Mohammad Hasnain and Haris Rauf have to sit out. Mohammad Rizwan is expected to keep his place ahead of Sarfaraz Ahmed.
Venue - Old Trafford, Manchester
Start time - 5:00 PM GMT/6:00 AM LOCAL
Head to Head record in T20Is - England: 11 Pakistan: 4 Tied: 0
Weather - Showers, 9-15 °C, Precipitation: 60%, Humidity: 79%, Wind: 26 km/h
The cricketing world is indebted to England for resuming international cricket and offering 6 quality test matches - except the rain, that is. England and Ireland did play 3 ODIs but the 3-match T20I series between England and Pakistan marks the return of white-ball cricket between two genuine cricketing powerhouses post the Covid-19 pandemic break. While the red-ball games were perfect for the cricket connoisseurs, it's time to step up the pace with some T20 cricket.
Pakistan's fluctuating fortunes
Pakistan were on a roll in T20 cricket for a couple of years but their form plummeted last year as they were able to win just one out of 10 T20 games.
The last time Pakistan were part of a T20I series, it was a 3-match affair against Bangladesh at home, which the team won 2-0. England last played T20Is against South Africa and won the 3-match series 2-1.
In terms of the head to head record in T20 cricket, England are way ahead with 11 wins as compared to Pakistan's 4 out of the 15 T20 games played between the two sides. The last time the two teams met was in May 2019 when England registered a comfortable 7-wicket victory on the back of a rapid half-century from Eoin Morgan.
Like against Ireland, England will go into the series with completely new faces as none of the test players will be participating in the rubber against Pakistan. This means that big names such as Jofra Archer and Jos Buttler will miss out.
For Pakistan, Babar Azam, Shadab Khan and Shaheen Afridi are the only three sure shot names who featured in the test series and will be a part of the Pakistan XI for the T20Is. There is a good chance that Mohammad Rizwan, if preferred over former Pakistan captain Sarfraz Ahmed, and young tearaway Naseem Shah also feature at some point.
Pakistan try to balance youth with experience
Newly-appointed captain Babar Azam will open the innings with Fakhar Zaman for Pakistan. Shoaib Malik is an automatic pick in the middle order but it will be interesting to see whether or not the team sticks with old guard Mohammad Hafeez or gives youngster Haider Ali an opportunity. Iftikhar Ahmed, Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan are the enforcers in the Pakistan batting order.
With the pitch at Manchester expected to offer enough for the spinners, Imad Wasim and Shadab Khan will play as bowling all-rounders. Mohammad Rizwan, on the back of a Man of the Series winning performance, is expected to keep his place ahead of Sarfaraz Ahmed.
The return of Mohammad Amir and Wahab Riaz could mean that both Mohammad Hasnain and Haris Rauf have to sit out. The management can go for Wahab Riaz and pick either of the youngsters ahead of Mohammad Amir. They will also want to give Naseem Shah a go at some point in the series.
Jordan and Malan return
For England, Tom Banton is expected to be given a promotion in the batting order as he struggled to adjust to batting in the middle order bar his half-century against Ireland. The absence of James Vince will make room for the move.
Either of Joe Denly, out injured for the Ireland series, or Dawid Malan, coming on the back of a spectacular double in county cricket, will assist Eoin Morgan and Sam Billings to round off the middle order.
David Willey and Moeen Ali will play as bowling all-rounders. Adil Rashid and Chris Jordan are sure shot picks and one of Tom Curran or Saqib Mahmood will be picked.
The weather in Manchester is not looking great with showers expected on Friday. With the maximum temperature at 15 °C, the players will have to give their best in relatively cold weather. The rain might delay the start of play but a result is likely.
Here's a look at the probable playing XI of both teams:
England - Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Tom Banton, Joe Denly/Dawid Malan, Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings, Moeen Ali, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Chris Jordan, Tom Curran/Saqib Mahmood
Pakistan - Babar Azam (c), Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hafeez, Shoaib Malik, Iftikhar Ahmed, Mohammad Rizwan (wk), Imad Wasim, Shadab Khan, Shaheen Afridi, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz
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