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ICC Champions Trophy Team Preview - Unpredictable Pakistan aim for maiden title

Pakistan are yet to win a Champions Trophy tournament

Pakistan are yet to win a Champions Trophy tournament
©WICB

A formidable pace attack will keep Pakistan in contention in English conditions which is expected to aid pace and movement as they head into the ICC Champions Trophy after managing to edge out West Indies in the ODI rankings.

At one stage, it looked unlikely they will make it to the top eight following the rise of Bangladesh in the 50-over format and the battle for the last spot was intense between Pakistan and the men from Caribbean. However, Pakistan managed to take their tally to 90 points to gain a slender two point lead over West Indies before the cut-off date of 30th September 2015.

The spotlight will now move from the retirement of Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan to Sarfraz Ahmed, who will lead Pakistan for the first time in an ICC tournament after taking over the reins from Azhar Ali. The recent spot fixing scandal from Pakistan Super League meant Pakistan will be without the likes of Sharjeel Khan, Mohammad Irfan and Mohammad Nawaz, who were their regulars in the last one-year.

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Sarfraz Ahmed will be leading Pakistan for the first time in an ICC tournament

Sarfraz Ahmed will be leading Pakistan for the first time in an ICC tournament
©WICB

Sarfraz will be desperately hoping for their senior batsmen in Mohammad Hafeez, Ahmed Shehzad and Shoaib Malik to come to the party which will be crucial to their fortunes. The bowling looks formidable with Mohammad Amir returning back and will have two other left-arm seamers in Wahab Riaz and Junaid Khan to assist him apart from the wily Hasan Ali. This tournament will also be a stern test for the 18-year-old leg-spinner Shadab Khan, who will have to share the spin bowling responsibility with Imad Wasim and Hafeez.

Performances In Past Editions:

Pakistan are one of the few teams apart from England and Bangladesh, who are yet to win a title in the Champions Trophy previously. Out of the previous seven editions, Pakistan reached semi-finals in 2000, 2004 and 2009 but failed to cross the line.

Overall, they have a win percentage under 40 with just seven victories from 18 games.

Player To Watch Out For:

Babar Azam has been in good form for Pakistan

Babar Azam has been in good form for Pakistan
©WICB

Babar Azam - Having played just 26 ODIs for Pakistan until now, he has already become one of their batting mainstay and has amassed 1322 runs at an average of 55. His turnaround came during the ODI series against West Indies in September last year where he scored hat-trick of centuries in the three games and his 100 in Adelaide against Australia earlier this year clearly has proven that the 22-year-old can combat foreign conditions too. Batting at number three in the line-up, he will without doubt be key to their fortunes.

Fixtures:

Pakistan will open their campaign against arch-rivals India and two out of their three games will be played at Edgbaston. They also played their warm-up game against Bangladesh at the same venue where they chased down 342 with two wickets in hand while their second practice game against Australia was dampened by rain which allowed only 62 deliveries.

4th June v India at Edgbaston
7th June v South Africa at Edgbaston
12th June v Sri Lanka at Sophia Gardens

Squad:

Sarfraz Ahmed (c), Azhar Ali, Ahmed Shehzad, Mohammad Hafeez, Babar Azam, Shoaib Malik, Haris Sohail, Fakhar Zaman, Imad Wasim, Hasan Ali, Fahim Ashraf, Wahab Riaz, Mohammad Amir, Junaid Khan, Shadab Khan

Cricket World Mr Predictor Prediction: Pakistan are a team that rely on momentum and how they will compete against India in the opening game might very well decide their fate in the tournament.

© Cricket World 2017